Should billionaires drink wine under $30?

Billionaires are the new millionaires. Take Steve Schwarzman, head of the recently IPO’d Blackstone from his profile in NY mag last week:

Steve Schwarzman is a perfect poster boy for this age of greed, sharklike, perpetually grinning, a tiny Gordon Gekko without the hair product. In Palm Beach (where he bought a historic landmark house for $20.5 million and tore it down), he eats his three-course lunches (including $400 stone crabs) in less than fifteen minutes and complains about the squeaky rubber soles of a servant’s shoes. Once, in the presence of a Times reporter, he buzzed a man to bring coffee, then stalked off to dress down the servant—“I called you six times.”

What was more urgently missing for us in these lunch details–more urgent than the missing staffer–is any info on the wine involved. Steve Schwarzman may not even be a fan of the fruits of the vine for all I know, but this raised an interesting question to me: if price were no object, would you ever have a wine under $30?

Life could get tiresome pulling yourself out of your pool in the Hamptons only to find a Eurocave stocked with Haut Brion blanc, Puligny, and Krug. OK, maybe not.

But even if a billion dollars were to fall from a helicopter out of the clear blue sky on to my private Caribbean island, there are still some wines under $30 I wouldn’t do without. They tend to be light summer wines, since I believe in pairing the mood and the moment, and cabernet and the beach make for a terrible pairing. So air-drop me some of the humble rosé. As I have mentioned previously, I enjoy rosé in the summer and get grumpy paying much over $15 for it. In warm weather, on the deck overlooking the infinity pool, it’s an A+ wine and context pairing.

Cru Beaujolais? Love it. Wouldn’t want to do without some Fleurie or Morgon on my island either.

What what about the wonderful diversity of lesser-known, “indigenous” varieties? Mencia? Mourvedre? Aglianico? Ribolla Gialla? Maratheftiko? Or distinctive regional styles, such as Muscadet, Moscato d’Asti, Txacoli, or fiano di Avellino? I’d toss some of these into my climate-controlled wine vault to mix things up between bottles of Cornas and Cabernet.

After Frank Bruni’s tales of wine-fueled excess in NYC’s top restaurants, I’m sure that if there’s one time frugality (and restraint) should kick in, it’s on the fifth bottle.

Certainly billionaires come in as many stripes as there are shades of wine and there’s no doubt even a frugal billionaire or two out there. And, of course, everyone’s entitled to drink whichever wine floats their proverbial yacht–my own private island would definitely have plenty of magnums of Montrachet as well as some value vino. Which wines under $30 would you not throw under the bus, er, Ferrari?


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17 Responses to “Should billionaires drink wine under $30?”

  1. Schwarzman’s characterization by The Times is false (he’s 5’10” – not exactly “tiny”); you should stick to wine instead of perpetuating these silly personal attacks.

  2. The first comment in this thread wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to read. And, perhaps beating Tyler to the defensive punch, it was a NY Magazine story, not a NY Times story. And Steve Schwarzman is really 5′ 9.2″ tall, not 5’10”. (Kidding.) The man’s height is a non-issue. So why am I still writing about this silliness?


    If I had millions, I’d spend the big bucks on big reds, but there are plenty of interesting whites, say from Germany, Austria, and Alsace, that would be well below the $30 cutoff yet would find their way into my rotation.

    And does cooking wine count?

  3. “Should billionaires drink wine under $30?” – Hmmm…not the Question of the Ages, that’s for sure.

  4. Oh, I don’t know, Jack. I think if a billionaire was open-minded and self-confident enough to drink wine in all price ranges I’d think he was more interesting than the one described here and want to know more about her (or him).

    As for my under $30 must haves, I think I would have to include moscato, cru beaujolais (ditto Dr. Vino), less fashionable reds like grenache and most riesling kabinetts and gewurztraminers. I couldn’t live without these wines.

    I knew someone once who had an office overlooking the rink at Rock Center. I commented on the amazing view, and he said breezily, “Oh, I never even see it anymore.” I’d rather be poor and appreciative than rich, jaded, and selfish. Then again, the chances of me becoming a billionaire are non-existent!

  5. I thought that all billionaires drank Domaine Ott Rose on their yachts. $29.95 at Sherry Lehmann. The much better Domaine Tempier Rose would bust the budget at $34.99 at Chelsea wine vault and may be the reason they choose the Ott.

  6. Hell, I’d have two cellars in my mansion. One off the dining room and full of my favorite under $30 wines that I could hop into to grab something for lunch or let non-wine fanatic friends browse through during a party.

    Then there’d be the Batman-like secret cellar accessible only through a false bookshelf and staffed by a gnomish Frechman whose duty was to maintain the cellar and bring cheese and charcuterie down to the hidden tasting room. That’s where I could take the kids and say, “Here’s your inheritance! Hope there’s some left when I die!”

  7. Mark – Nice on the cooking wine!

    Deb – all right!

    Steve – ha! No Ott on my island.

    Benito – I like your style!!!

  8. No, I am pretty sure I would not get bored drinking only $30+ wines. Used Boxster, maybe, but no scrimping on the wine

  9. Old money would go for the cheaper stuff.

    Old money adores good value and loooooves to drink.

    Since I have no money of any age, I can tell you that if I did come into molto $$, I’d be prudent and spend no more than $100 on any bottle. Ever. I’d cadge my old First Growths off friends with (presumably new) money.

  10. […] In other news, I really liked Dr. Vino’s recent post on billionaires. […]

  11. I couldn’t give up the Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli. But, if I were a billionaire and felt cheap drinking inexpensive wine, I’d just buy the vineyard and winery that produced it.
    Albany, NY

  12. isn’t this like asking if billionaires eat cheeseburgers or pizza? I mean, foie gras and caviar are great, but sometimes you just want a cheeseburger. Am I right?

  13. Hey Kathleen – Nice! It’s kind of like the guy who bought the Remington razor company: “I liked it so much, I bought the company!

    Boop – True! I could have phrased the question better — which wines under $30 would be in your cellar when you become a billionaire? So which “cheeseburger” wines would you like, if any?

  14. A no brainer. Of course I would still drink wines under $30. I grew up on wines under $30 and there are some damn good ones. You have to stay in touch with your roots. (BTW, if you get a chance read “The Millionaire Next Door.” It applies.)

  15. El Jefe liked wine so much he bought a winery. Don’t know about the millionaire business, though. What’s that they say about making wine? “The only way to make a small fortune in the wine making business…”

    Albany, NY

  16. These will always be on my list, even when I become a zillionaire 🙂

    Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Gruner Veltliner, Loire Cab Francs and Chinons, Sangiovese, Grignolino, Mendoza Malbec and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

  17. Interesting thread. Actually, I guess it doesnt matter. Someone down to Earth with that much money is pretty cool. On another not, I actually found another site pertaining to Stephen Schwartzman’s connections throughout the business world. Pretty interesting, whether it’s for research or not.


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