Recently a wine bottle sold for 12,000-euros at an auction. And it wasn’t a particularly old bottle, a 2003 vintage, so exactly 12 years of age as of today. It wasn’t a large format either but the standard 750ml. That’s not even a litre and yet it cost more than a chunky gold bar. And that was the price before taxes and it was not just for one bottle but an entire case which were sold at the price. So clearly, stocks weren't limited and I have had this wine from other vintages on various occasions and I am definitely not the kind who is specially flown in to be privy to anything so exclusive and expensive. In short, it was just another day of buying for a client (possibly in China or Russia) and paying the equivalent of common man’s annual salary for what will be the first course accompaniment for an evening of fine food and revelry.
And this is a sign of the times to come, showing us just what the wine market is transmogrifying into: an ugly money-hungry creature that is all about the superlatives and the expletives. An endless race to acquire and possess with a flair to flash and show off too. And all this is chiefly based on how deep your pockets run and how brazen your attitude is when lavishing coins at pricey bottles. In plain English, the people who can henceforth afford the best of wines may not necessarily be the ones who can afford the good taste to truly relish them.
Which reminds me of the other lovely piece of “precious wine drunk by the precious few” news, when Putin and Berlusconi went and opened a bottle of a 240-year old sherry in Russia’s latest acquisition, Crimea. Apart from the recent annexation, this only further heightened the Crimeans' anger against their new owners, for this bottle happened to be a part of a set of five which are/were considered national heritage. To have then been popped and drunk just because the two leaders could was like adding rocket fuel to a raging inferno of a flame! But what makes it worse is that nobody knows how much of the bottle did they drink and how it was relished. All we know is that the world is now poorer by one 240-year-old bottle of a what must have been a very exquisite wine.
And that is a sad situation really. Like a restaurant which is always booked out and when you do manage to squeeze in a booking, you can only afford a shared starter and a pasta main course. But any democratic, capitalist set-up will veer towards this direction, no matter what. People who get richer will instantly and instinctively wish to acquire the best of everything, and not being confident of their palates, they will look at the price to ascertain good taste.
Good wine is becoming more about power play than anything else and the wineries have the worst case of mixed feelings when they see their good stuff fly out at five-digit prices only to turn up in settings where their babies won’t hold centerstage, at least not for any of the right "geeky" reasons.
The unfortunate reality is that money talks, and it just doesn't know when to shut up and appreciate the good golden silence. Meanwhile, all that I and other wine writers of my ilk can do is to sit by the roadside and crib about how the (wine) world is going to rot. Yes, there’s a pun in there but I am too pissed off to even smirk.