Friday, November 11, 2005

An Authoritative Voice Weighs in on Wine Prices

This man likes cheap wine, too As we all know, the prices of some Italian wines are inflated almost beyond belief. They're good, very very good, but who among us can justify a $200 bottle that isn't from a grand cru estate? I mean, a real grand cru from the real Bordeaux, not the faux-Bordeaux of Tuscany... A fervent believer in "the market" (a Platonic abstraction: time to pull out the bullshit-o-meter whenever one of these makes an appearance) might smugly say, "It's a case of supply and demand. The market works." Not necessarily. Over the past few months I've had conversations with wine retailers in Boston and New York, including one who specializes in premium Italians, and the bloom seems to have come off the rose when it comes to SuperTuscans and Gaja-type Barolos. "The collectors have bought all they'll need for a while, but there's still so much of it sitting out there," Roger Ormon of BLM Wines in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, emailed me. It may be a case of some people having more money than sense, of their being hyped and seduced into the imagined, georgic glamour of the vigneron. Yet what does Giacomo Tachis have to say about the prices of top-tier Italian wines? I found an article in the Italian site Wine Country dating from last December where the famous oenologist, credited with creating Sassicaia, Tignanello, etc., said that the crisis of the Italian wine industry has to blame overpricing as a major factor. "The wines I contribute to making are not that expensive when they come out of the cellar," referring to Sassicaia that costs 130 euros in wine shops and 200 euros in restaurants. "The appropriate price is around 30-40 euros a bottle....If I have to spend a fortune to buy a bottle, I don't buy it." At last, the voice of reason. Mr. Tachis' comment reminds me of a recent interview I read in Wine Spectator with the well-known TV chef and collaborator with the late Julia Child, Jacques Pepin. When asked how he took wine with his meals Pepin replied, "Preferably a lot of it and not too expensive [laughing]. In my culture, when I was a kid in France, we had wine on the table and that was the wine--it was usually red--that you had with your onion soup or your fish or your roast chicken....I've been married 40 years and I can't remember a meal where we didn't open a bottle of wine with dinner, sometimes two." [Fellow ivrogne!] As they used to say in those old American comedies with English characters, "RathER!"

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