Archive for the 'Bling' Category

Research subjects think more expensive means better wine!

wineonbrain.jpgBREAKING: Behavioral economists at Caltech attached an EEG to the heads of 21 volunteers who knew not much about wine, fed them one milliliter of cabernet through a tube and the only thing they told them about the price, which wasn’t always accurate! Guess which one they always thought was better? The more expensive one, even when it was the same wine!

For a summary of this study, check out this BBC account, the best I’ve seen (with blog-worthy reader feedback too! And thanks to readers Grayman, Brian, Stephen and Terry for sending in versions of the story.).

Unfortunately using price as a proxy for quality happens all the time in the world of wine. That’s why, for example, Ace of Spades $300 nonvintage Champagne sells out when it tastes remarkably like the $50 version from the same producer. Hmm, maybe that’s why no samples of it were available during Vinexpo, a savvy crowd of trade tasters? Examples also abound of new producers who release wines at high prices in an attempt to signal quality that may or may not be there.

But, fortunately, price and quality are not always perfectly related. Just last month I poured two wines for participants at a tasting. One was quite a storied Napa producer and another was an unheralded producer from some dustbowl in Spain. They could see the bottles and some knew the Napa name. Which did they prefer? The Spanish one. And when I told them it was $15 vs $115, they rejoiced!

What do you say, is a higher priced wine always better? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

It’s too bad that the researchers’ next project is about pain–I was hoping they would repeat the wine quality test with Parker scores. I bet it would have an even higher correlation with perceived quality than price!

Image used with permission from

Where in the wine world are we? Ancient edition


This ancient land was known for precious metals and wine–a fine pairing for any society! If we were teleported there right now, we could try wine from gold or silver vessels while wearing gold-spangled robes. And you thought wine and bling was sooo 2007!

In fact, some residents were so rich that they were buried with their gold wine service. And some were so kinky as to be buried with their servants or horses. But that doesn’t concern us.

Get a load of that silver cummerbund thing above! The scene depicts some grand poobah, complete with five o’clock shadow, getting served wine. Peeled grapes coming up next, no doubt.

Archaeologists have also unearthed a shrine to the god of wine complete with a large, ornate bronze cauldron presumably filled with the fruits of the vine.

Where was this ancient land? And why is it timely now? Win our respect and admiration–and a link back to your site if you have one–by being the first with a correct answer in the comments below.

UPDATE: We have a winner–in record time! Read more…

Give the gift of big, green wine


Last year at this time, I wrote a post called “Give the gift of big red,” which suggested giving wines big in flavor profile and in heavy bottles. However, since my research into the carbon footprint of wine, I’m reformed. Now I know that magnums (1.5 liters) produce less carbon dioxide emissions per ounce of wine than regular bottles because of the more favorable wine-to-glass ratio.

So this year, here’s a list of impressive magnums that will impress your friends and relatives–and even with the bigger bottle, they’ve got a smaller carbon footprint. Providing they drink it all, of course.

While there are many magnums that are ridiculously priced since they are a favorite of collectors, these are in the realm of reasonable, under $100. All prices are for magnums.

Pierre Peters champagne, $90 (find this wine). This champagne is a “grower champagne,” made by the people who grew the grapes (unlike the big houses who buy grapes from the 10,000 growers in the region). It’s from Mesnil, the home to big names such as Krug and Salon, so the vineyard site is excellent. So is the resulting Champange, a blanc de blancs, which I have served many times this year to guests and once from magnum to a class. Great bling at a fraction of bling price! Magnums are particularly good for aging so feel free to keep it for a few years.

Pepiere, “Granite de Clisson,” Muscadet 2005, $40 (find this wine). This producer is a leading quality in the area where the Loire river meets the sea. The wine is his richest and smoothest thanks to two years of aging but it still has good, zippy acidity to compliment seafood such as oysters. It’s also a doubly green wine because the grapes are hand harvested from an organic vineyard.

Schloss Lieser, Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, 2004, $68 (find this wine). I stumbled on this bottle in a wine shop and couldn’t resist it. The Riesling magnum is long and fluted and towers above other magnums. I served it at a party last weekend and the crowd loved it and had fun pouring from such a long neck. The wine has a whiff of flintiness on the nose but had a beautiful balance of light sweetness and acidity on the palate.

Dard & Ribo, Saint-Joseph, 2005, $68 (find this wine). I almost didn’t get a chance to taste this wine because I served it at a party and the revelers almost finished it off before I got to it. But fortunately I did since the wine inside the magnum is terrific with a great balance of red berry fruit, tannin and acidity. This is also a “double green” wine since it is totally natural and this producer is a staple in the trendy natural wine bars of Paris. It makes an especially good gift for someone named Joseph as I found out at the party where a friend named Joe tried to run away with the bottle.

Niepoort, 1997 vintage port, $65 (find this wine). Vintage port is generally very expensive with recent vintages pushing $100 a bottle. Magnums, however, get a significant discount presumably because nobody can drink that much sweet wine in one sitting. Tip: have a party and serve it at the end with some Stilton and it will be an amazing farewell. Another tip: drink as much as you are able and decant it into a regular sized bottle and recork where it will stay good for a good while longer. Whatever you do with it, the stout bottle is an impressive gift.

Choose your Christmas magnum wisely.


Bling update: $220k Hennessey Cognac, $50k whisky, $10k Dom

beautedusiecle.jpgTis the season for one thing: bling!

Item 1: Hennessey has launched Beauté du Siècle, a limited release cognac for $150,000 euros ($220,000; find this cognac). A blend of 100 year old cognacs yadda yadda, it comes in a Baccarat crystal bottle (of course!) and a display chest that “was made by 10 different artists using mirrored glass and melted aluminum” according to Decanter. A member of the Hennessey board will deliver it personally to whoever buys it–in a stretch Hummer, I’m sure! Any bets on which city will see the first delivery? I’m going with Moscow.

Item 2: A bottle of whisky fetched $54,000 (including commissions) at auction in NYC. One of forty bottles, this 1926 Macallan was housed in a humble wood box. Half the bids came in from overseas.

Item 3: It pays to shop around for bling! A reader writes to say that Sherry Lehmann has a Methuselah (6L) of Dom Perignon 1995 for $9,999 instead of the previously discussed jerobaum (3L) for $17,000 at Crush . Only drawback: it doesn’t have the white gold bling since “This rare bottle is packaged in its own locked case with a metallic finish to preserve and protect this fine wine.”

Item 4: bonus bling for 2008! As tucked away in a quick mention here, the new, 250-case 1995 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay (find this champagne) will be coming out for $3,000+ a bottle.

Related: “Judge this cognac by its bottle

Tasting the tops: prestige cuvee Champagne with E Diddy

Yesterday I went to one of those lunches that comes around, oh, never. So much fine Champagne is rarely found outside the penthouse jacuzzi of a hip hop mogul.

edmccarthy.jpgIt was the December lunch of the Wine Media Guild with a theme of prestige cuvées. You got it–Krug, Dom Pérignon, Cristal and 20 other top wines from top houses. Leading us in the packed-house tasting was WMG member Ed McCarthy, photographed at right, author of Champagne for Dummies. I felt like calling him E Diddy with so many bling bubbles around him.

I’m not going to do a run-down of all the wines but here are some of my takeaways. Read more…

1995 Dom Perignon Methuselah in white gold – how much?


If the bling is the thing this holiday season, check out this Methuselah (6 liters, or the equivalent of eight regular bottles) of Dom Perignon champagne on display in a midtown Manhattan wine store. The elegant photo and lighting is thanks to my cameraphone.

Care to guess the price? I imagine the glass case is included. Be the first to guess correctly and you will win…OK, not the bottle. Just our respect and admiration this time–or maybe an hour in Mark’s Petrus cage?

FYI check here for a baseline price on the regular bottle, sans white gold.

UPDATE 12/1: Read more…

Has the wine auction market peaked? (with Fall auction calendar)

The recent turbulence on Wall Street has caused some pain: Bear Stearns is laying off 240 people, the easy money of the yen carry trade is drying up, and bonuses are rumored to be only 25 percent of what they were last year if the year ended today.

How does this affect the auction market for collectibles? Billionaire Eli Broad recently told Bloomberg that he thinks prices will decline for the high-end art market. As the fall auction season kicks into high gear, auctioneers must be wondering if the same fate awaits them for wine.

I think not for three reasons. First, there’s gotta be a pretty limited number of people who would pay $100 million for Damien Hirst’s diamond skull, while fifty cases of 1982 Lafite can be broken down to 50 different buyers if need be. Even 25 percent of last year’s bonus still buys a lot of wine. Ferrari? Maybe that gets the ax, but wine stays.

Size matters too: total US wine auction sales last year were $162 million, strong growth year over year, but at the rate of a skull, that doesn’t even add up to an entire diamond encrusted skeleton should Hirst ever do one of those. The $1.7 trillion hedge fund industry may be down, but it’s by no means out. And if you’re trading down from big ticket art, why not shift into lower-ticket but still investment-grade wine? There are a lot of new empty cellars in Greenwich, CT and beyond just waiting to be filled up.

Finally, it’s tangible. At the end of a day trading, going home and sitting in the 55 degree cellar and looking at the wine is fun. It’s there. It’s real, unlike many mortgage backed securities or derivatives thereof. And alluring. It might even make you want to uncork a bottle. As Napoleon is reputed to have said, “Champagne. In victory you deserve it; in defeat, you need it.”

What do you think about the market for collectible wines this fall? Have your say in the comments below.

Select wine auctions fall 2007: (after the jump) Read more…

Ace of Spades expands into a full house

OK quick – who is associated with the champagne Armand de Brignac, aka Ace of Spades, aka Gold Bottle? if you said the hip hop-preneur Jay-Z then you get only partial credit. The producer is in fact the Champagne negociant, Cattier.

I spoke with Alexandre Cattier last week at Vinexpo about the wines that he provides to the US market, sold mostly through nightclubs and a handful of stores (find this wine), where the prices range from $300 – $375.

About the opportunity to develop the Ace of Spades, Cattier told me “It’s incredible–it’s one of the occasions that you have once in a lifetime as a negociant.”

I have not tried the wine myself and there was none offered, I might add, since Cattier said that the production was “very limited.” He did tell me that the wine is a brut nonvintage. Hmm, a “limited” brut NV?

Anyway, the brand is expanding. I saw samples of the new bottles, which will now include a shiny pink embalmed brut rose NV and a shiny silver emblamed blanc des blancs brut NV. Feel free to poke around the Cattier web site and see their existing line that includes a rose NV and a blanc des blancs NV. These are available in the US from $25 – $55. (Find these wines)

Reader mailbag: finding Ace of Spades Champagne
Jay-Z puts an Ace in play


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