SPIT: Bordeaux futures
In recent years, Bordeaux futures ran up to tremendous highs (see above chart above for three top chateaus ex-cellars; compiled from data from The Times of London). Now, they may be poised to fall back to 2002 prices, which is what British buyers told the Times they were willing to pay. A Bordeaux insider told me recently that the first growths really should not cross the €100 threshold. But he admitted that they probably will after they hear nice things about their wines at the en primeurs tastings in early April.
SIPPED: Bordeaux past
In a blast from what seems a distant past, a new investment fund for wine is opens this month with allegedly 15 to 20 million pounds of assets. Investors will need to meet the 500,000 pound minimum for the closed-end fund. Send checks to Richmond Park partners Steven Berger and Pascal Maeter who will manage the Lunzer Wine Investments Institutional Fund. [Bloomberg]
SIPPED: industrial waste over Givry
The Burgundy village of Givry has to contend with plans for a new industrial waste treatment plant on the outskirts of town. Last year’s mayoral campaign was fought largely around this issue with an anti-plant activist winning town hall. But the regional authorities later approved the plant, winemakers sued, and now a tribunal has suspended the approval. Score one for the winemakers! Check out the story at washingtonpost.com.
SPIT: excise tax
California’s legislature approved a new budget without increasing the excise tax on wine.
SIPPED and SPIT: wine blogs
The wine blog award winners have been announced. Alas, this blog is not among them. But thank you for your clicks of support! And hearty congratulations to the winners! [Fermentation]
A “Master of Coffee” (not Mister Coffee) in England has insured his tongue for £10 million ($13.95 million) via Lloyd’s of London (not to be confused with the newly nationalized Lloyds Banking Group, ahem). Take that Robert Parker–his policy is 14 times bigger than your policy! [BBC via sdelong]
From site reader Shari: file under “defies all odds.”
“I had one of those crazy wine experiences last week. Ancient bottle (1991) of Los Vascos can from Chile. Probably bought it in 93 when it was about $5. It got dragged from apt to apt through working cellars and non. Then dragged it up to Vermont where it happily sat in a downstairs closets probably fairly constantly at 55-65. Then hauled it out at Christmas, stuck it in a little snow to chill ever so slightly from the hot kitchen. Brought it in, never opened it, let it sit in the hot kitchen til last week. Opened it knowing that I had no right to expect anything but vinegar. it was delicious. What I didn’t drink, I baked into wine biscuits. Good story for the recession and in advance of Open That Bottle Night!”
Well, clearly I didn’t get this comment up before OTBN, which was this past Saturday. John Brecher and Dottie Gaiter of the WSJ created this tremendous, blog-style-before-there-were blogs interactive event, now in its tenth edition, to encourage people to open a special bottle that they had kept putting off opening. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me to participate this past Saturday (had a cold); what did you uncork?
We’re back with Part Deux of our interview with John Gilman, author of the newsletter A View from the Cellar (part one is here). John has offered a free issue from his backlist to any Dr. Vino reader so surf on over to his site and check it out. In this part of the Q&A, I had intended John to give a quick thumbs up or thumbs down on a number of hot-button issues in the wine world today as well as some things that I’ve heard him express unusual views about. In case you thought you were done gorging during the holidays, you can now feast on John’s 7,000+ words in this second part. So buckle up and get ready to hear his thoughts on what’s wrong with Riesling from Austria and Australia, screwcaps and their problems, the Loire, California cab then and now, indigenous yeasts, roto-fermenters, small oak barrels, wines over 14% alcohol and why he uses scores!
To my mind this is clearly the most singularly misunderstood and underappreciated region for great wines in the world. Read more…
John Gilman is one of the people who I have enjoyed getting to know in 2008. He started his career in wine retail, later worked as a sommelier with a soft spot for Burgundy, and now has embarked on the foolhardy notion of writing a bi-monthly wine newsletter, A View from the Cellar. Except maybe he’s not so foolhardy since, unlike a blog, he actually charges for his newsletter! Started in 2006, John has quickly won the respect of collectors and the people in the trade. He’s often provocative and not afraid to call things as he sees them; one of my favorite parts of his newsletter is the “roadkill” section where he discusses bottles he’s tried recently that were over the hill, mostly prematurely since they were made to attract attention in their youths but have failed to mature.
To give you a flavor of his preferences and picks, I asked him several questions via email. I broke it up in to two postings. In this first posting, John discusses what would be in his cellar if he were starting collecting today, what he drinks at home on a Tuesday night, the most underrated wines for aging, where Lafite 2005 will be in five years, and what would be his “desert island wine.” Onward!
If you had no collection and were going to put $1,000 into, say, at least two cases of wines available now for drinking 10+ years from now, what wines would you include? Read more…
“I guarantee you all these prices will be significantly higher this time next year,” John Kapon, president and auctioneer at Acker, Merrall is reported to have said between bids at an auction last December. The buyers who paid $8,000 for six bottles of the ’61 Dom Perignon and $22,000 of for eight bottles of the ’66 Cristal might be wondering if that was a money-back guarantee.
Prices of all kinds of assets have declined precipitously since last December. Wine appeared somewhat immune as recently as September but evidence is now emerging that prices for collectible wines are entering a correction after many years of strong growth. The Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index fell 12.4 percent in October.
A close observer of auctions told me yesterday that two recent sales only sold 35 and 43 percent of lots. And some lots are going for well below the low price estimate. At another auction, someone else told me that a case of 1998 Grand Cru Chablis sold for $60. Even though there’s a risk of premature oxidation with that wine, $5 a bottle certainly seems like it’s worth a flier. Such a low selling price indicates that there was no reserve.
While many shops may have locked in higher costs, making them unwilling or unable to discount, some specialty shops do broker private collections too and can have faster turnarounds than auction houses. Provenance is always an issue with mature wine, so feel free to ask where the wines came from.
But some sellers at auction may be eager to liquidate making the secondary market may be the best place for wine deals this fall. Of course, if the global economic malaise continues into next year or beyond, declines in fine wine prices could continue. So you may not want to step in and catch too many falling magnums.
Some upcoming auctions: Zachys, Nov 6-8; Acker, Merrall Nov 7; Christie’s Nov 17 and 21; Sotheby’s Nov 22; Hart Davis Hart Dec 5.
Master of Wine Charles Curtis joined Christie’s auction house this summer as head of the Wine Department in North America. Trained as a chef, he entered the wine trade in 1994 and most recently was with LVMH. I caught up with him via email.
Christie’s Wine Department had $71 million in sales worldwide last year, the bulk coming in Europe. On November 29, they will resume live auctions in Hong Kong. For the complete calendar, see the Christie’s Wine Department web site.
1. How is the financial turmoil affecting the fine wine market?
Like all industry leaders, Christie’s is watchful of the unfolding situation in the financial markets, Read more…
Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory have taken a break from their usual physics research and turned their attention to combating wine fraud.
Roger Johnston and Jon Warner in Argonne ‘s Vulnerability Assessment Team have developed a cap that can be put in place at the winery to track if the bottle has ever been opened or tampered with.
However, if you thought resistance to screwcaps was high in the realm of fine wine, get a load of this Lojac meets Denver Boot meets car alarm thingy. And just look how it makes your laptop bug out when you connect the two! Full details on the story in their press release. (hat tip: Andrew)
In other wine and technology news circulating today, the e-tongue has resurfaced. But we’ve already wagged our tongues at that one!
In 1985 at Christie’s auction house in London, Kip Forbes–dispatched by his father Malcolm to bring home a bottle of 1787 Bordeaux on the Forbes private jet–finds surprising competition from a then-upstart publisher: Marvin Shanken of the fledgling Wine Spectator. A spectacular bidding war ensues over the bottle that may have belonged to Thomas Jefferson and one of them takes the bottle back to New York in an extra seat on the plane, strapped to a mattress (read the book to discover which one) after winning it for $156,000.
Such is a great scene near the beginning of the fantastic book Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine. Released last month, this page-turning book that reads like fiction has already reached the extended NYT bestseller’s list. It’s a wine book that has a lot of appeal beyond simply wine geeks since the book’s verve derives not from tasting notes but a mystery over whether the bottle that Shanken and Forbes bid on was real or fake. Read more…