More on fine wine prices

Back in 1984 a bottle of 1st growth Bordeaux bought pre-arrival from a good merchant cost about A$100 (up in famous vintages down in others). In recent years it has been more than A$400 ($700 in 2003). Adjusted for inflation it should be around A$225.

Looks like fine wine has been getting more expensive.


Rate of inflation in fine wine prices

How fast do fine wine prices rise ? Presumably above the rate of inflation, making them worthy of investment. My analysis suggests they are rising at far above the (US) inflation rate.

I found an old indent offer for 1982 Bordeaux, apparently published around late 1984. I entered the prices (which included tax and duty) for several wines for which I also had pre-arrival prices from the 2000 vintage. Both vintages were hot, with high demand so seemed fair comparisons.

The wines were:
Chateau Palmer
Leoville Poyferre
Haut Bailly
Chasse Spleen
Haut Bages Averous

The combined 1982 vintage prices (in 1984) were A$228. The combined 2000 vintage prices were A$1767.

Adjusted for inflation (1984 – 2003) the same bundle of wines in 2003 should have cost only $400 !

In other words they should cost about double what a similar group of young wines should have cost in 1984, but they actually cost about 8 times as much.

Now this seems ridiculous. Perhaps the 2000 prices were just absurdly high, even compared to 1982. So with a different bundle of wines I compared 1982 to 2004 (2004 had prices way down on 2000). The wines were:
Leoville Poyferre
Haut Brion
Pichon Baron

The 1982 bundle was $527, and the 2004 bundle was $1410. Inflation adjusted the 1982 vintage bundle should cost only $975 in 2005. Again fine wine price rises way above inflation.

And is it really fair to compare the stellar 1982 vintage with the fairly good value vintage of 2004 ?

Also I’m using prices in Australia (which are subject to changes in Australian tax and some local costs) but a US inflation adjustment. I found an Australian inflation adjustor and while it gives a higher current value of the 1982 bundle of $1200 there seems little doubt that fine wine prices are outpacing inflation.

PS the Australian inflation adjustor says the first 1982 bundle should cost less than $500 in 2003 (not the $1700 that the 2000 vintage wines actually sold for).

New World wine lake ?

Adelaide newspaper The Advertiser reports that Australian wineries currently have one billion litres of unsold wine, equivalent to 2/3rds of the 2005 vintage with a record 2006 harvest about to begin.

With bumper harvests in California too there is a lot of unsold wine sloshing around. Grape growers will feel the pain of drastically reduced prices for their grapes. While consumers should see some price reductions too, as wine brands fiercely compete for custom.

But I don’t expect fine wine prices to fall, they never seem to.

Chateau Patache d’Aux 1996 & 2000 (review)

88 points/ pnts

Medoc, Bordeaux, France.

This is near the bottom of the Bordeaux fine wine pyramid. One of the better cru bourgeois chateaux of the Medoc, that can be bought en primeur or pre-arrival in Australia for $25.

1996 was a good vintage for parts of the Medoc, and cabernet in particular. This wine has an unusually low proportion of Merlot in the blend (only 20% in 1996, 30% in 2000) with 70% cabernet sauvignon.

At almost 10 years of age this is drinking very well. Fully integrated oak. Soft yet reasonably flavoursome, with nice touches of leather and only the slightest oxidation. Everything I’d hope for in a wine at this price level. Savoury, food friendly.

2000 ‘perhaps the greatest vintage ever’ is a slightly bigger wine (note the 13% alcohol on the label, personally I think the wine probably doesn’t quite reach this level). There is a slight hard greenness (vegetal rather than herbaceous super green like old NZ cabernets) which makes me wonder if the 1996 is/was not the better wine.

Paired against the older wine this now smells of oak esters – marzipan and a touch of ‘Frangelico’ liqueur. It wouldn’t smell like this without its partner wine alongside. Interesting, highlights the value of vertical tastings.

Having seen how gracefully the 1996 developed I’m much more upbeat about this 2000. Previously I’d thought it a bit dilute and green.

All in all, good quality humble fine Bordeaux. A contrast to the unbalanced power of most cheaper New World cabernets.

PS note the subtle changes to the label – good to see marketing restraint.

Robert Skalli Corbieres 1999 (review)

Robert Skalli Corbieres (Languedoc) 1999

91 points – a perfect example of its type and exceedingly good value

The wine of this region is variable and often comprised cooperative blending which sadly, also produces blanding. Skalli with his sense of branding, has been swimming against this tide and has produced some wines of unique intensity and loyalty to the regional blending styles (as well as some tesco trash).

The wine reviewed here supports and extends the *winedog* view of the local style of corbieres hills of western languedoc …see . I would suggest my own experiences of the favourite blends of region is Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, or in the other dominant ratio, Carignan, Syrah and Grenache as Skalli produced in this particular vintage. This is what the locals like. As with other domestic wines of this region it is designed to be pair with the local food and is balanced as such.

Skalli has produced this range “off – market” and is usually only available through various five star hotels – look out for it at Radisson in Sydney or any other Radissons RoW. The “take to market to strategy” is pairing regionally driven reliable wine with french trained chefs at hotel restaurants. Incidently, the Radisson Plaza in Sydney, (in Sydney’s own ‘flatiron’ building opposite the old stock exchange) as it happens, also has one Australia’s greatest chefs, Tony Bilson plying his trade at ‘Bilsons’ restaurant. Modern yet classical, and yet even, unprententious. Not for everyone, but his loyals are influential.

The Corbieres… sometimes from the foothills you can see a line of pink sand that is moving – it is the flamingos that at certain times set down for a warm Mediterranean lunch. On the eye the 1999 was a garnet to blood red and with a brick red film. The nose opened up to a soft plum and leather after 15 mins decanted. On entry it is momentarily invisible then astringent with prickly blackcurrant, developing into soy, anise, peking duck through to orange peel and red iron and dusty fine tannins. The length shows the blender’s extraordinary skill with lingering bergamot, silver beet and black olive. No oak remaining in this one.

This is not an expensive wine ($40) but put it with some good quality but inexpensive Australian produce and cooking and you know what this region has in common with Australia. It is the whole high quality, rich and relaxed, complex yet comfortable class of this region that matches so well to Australian values.

Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2003

87 points

Southern Rhone, France. 13%

Surprisingly approachable and not at all baked or hefty. Very well handled fruit given the extraordinarily hot vintage. There is tannin certainly but it isn’t immediately obvious. The wine is already drinking well, and will presumably gain a little complexity over the next 5 years.

Slightly sweeter than the Crozes-Hermitage (reviewed below), also more body.

If you want a $20 French wine that won’t disappoint your guests (esp those not familiar with French wines) then this is your wine. Very good for what it is, though I am a little puzzled by its popularity in Australia (where there are similar but more flavourful competitors).

M Chapoutier ‘Les Meysonniers’ Crozes-Hermitage 2000

84 points

Southern Rhone, France. 13%

I was surpirsed to see flashes of crimson when I first poured this – at almost 6 years of age, in a v.good but not outstanding vintage and for one of the earliest drinking of Northern Rhone appellations. The wine has ever so slightly above average acidity which may explain the good colour.

This is a well made food friendly wine without great varietal character, weight, or concentration. Pretty good for what it is.

Top wines tasted in 2005

The top 3 wines on this blog were:
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2002 and Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002
Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 1996

For the commercial wine of the year I’d nominate Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003.

I’ve picked over the blog to list all the 90+ point wines that there is a not unreasonable chance of being able to buy still.

Brini Blewitt Springs Shiraz 2002

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2001

Rockford Moppa Springs 1999

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2002

Tresmoulis 2000 Corbieres

Chateau Leoville Barton 2001 and 1999

Massena Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2004

Moss Wood Cabernet 2001

Mr Riggs Shiraz 2003

Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003

Robert Chevillon Nuits St-Georges ‘Les Roncieres’ 2002

Chateau Croix de Gay 2001

Roger Sabon Chateauneuf de Pape ‘cuvee prestige’ 2000

Voyager Estate shiraz 2002

Torbreck The Struie shiraz 2003

Browns of Padthaway Ernest shiraz 2002

Peter Lehmann 8 songs shiraz 2000

Chateau Rollan de By 2001

Henriques & Henriques Madeira Malmsy 15 yo

Greenock Creek apricot block shiraz 1999

Chateau Senechaux Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2001

Winter Creek Barossa Shiraz 2002

Laurona 2000
Chateau Potensac 2000

Noon Eclipse 2003

88 points

This wine is one we rarely get to taste. They open the cellar door for 2 weekends and sell out. Some friends of mine did the line up and waiting, so we tried it last night after a day of eating and drinking more mediocre wines.

Some people would give this wine much higher ratings, and I have to admit it is easy to drink and very powerful. It has very ripe red fruits, not really overextracted, but more port-like in the sense of ripeness. It has a bit of residual sugar, which though a bit strange reduces the potential alcohol a bit. I don’t know what food I would recommend- we just drank while talking. The bottle doesn’t say what the blend it, but it seemed to me to have mainly Shiraz with some very ripe Grenache.

Chateau Saint-Michel 2000 (review)

77 points

Canon Fronsac, Bordeaux, France.

I’m a fan of Bordeaux but let me pan this wine because it reeks of acid (some added), making it really limey and rather poor to drink. The colour is great, and a deep sniff reveals the new oak aroma of marizipan but everything is let down on the palate.

I suspect that ripe grapes were let down by bad winemaking decisions.

1st Growth Wine Tasting

Chateau Puygueraud 2002 Bordeaux Cotes de Francs 87 points
Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 83 points
Charles Melton Barossa Valley Cabernet 2002 87+ points
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 95+ points
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 93+ points
St Supery Cabernet 1999 Napa Valley 90 points

We started with the Puygueraud half bottle for context. A lovely fresh savoury light wine with some tannin. Should drink and age well over the next 5+ years. Lacks substantial concentration but is very food friendly still. Classic budget claret, excellent cafe/restaurant wine.

Leconfield Cabernet in comparision was all fresh sweet acidic fruit with considerable herbaceousness. Surprisingly approachable for such a young wine, very pleasant. Yet later when we came back to this wine it tasted green and unpleasant. Very interesting addition to the tasting.

Charles Melton’s 2002 Cabernet was another stark contrast. I thought the nose was a bit like some classic Aussie reds of the past (many Cabernet Shiraz blends) warm and with a touch of grease paint – personally I found this quite attractive though it won’t appeal to everyone. There was also quite a lot of other exotic oaky chocolate mocha aromas. Not a particularly varietal (cabernet) wine. A syrupy wine, like some South African wines. Pretty nice to drink even without food. Somewhat choclate milkshake in style. The alcohol is a bit hot and noticeable. Some poeple have used the word ‘elegance’ when describing Barossa cabernet from the cool balanced 2002 vintage – it’s a bit of a stretch. Certainly though there is far less evident added acidity, the wines are fresher and will be less leathery with age. Drink now to enjoy the modern winemaking or leave for a few years for it to settle down into maybe a slightly less sweet traditional Australian red.

The nose on the Lafite was quite a shock to me, so much power and concentration. It had the sort of lead pencil and blackcurrant aromas one should expect but the intensity was arresting. Without tasting this wine it is very obvious that it is extremely young, and is built to age. The colour, needless to say, was very dark and shiny. Very concentrated but not at all syrupy or hefty. Very savoury with plenty of fine tannin. The first taste wiped my mouth clean of flavour, not to suggest that the wine is ethereal, but very tightly bundled and tannic. This wine has real breed, power without weight, and great complexity. It should age superbly and for a long while.

The Mouton was more exotic, a bit more clumsy (hardly a criticism given it is only a baby – perhaps one year in bottle) with sweeter mocha tones of oak. There also seems to be more alcohol, certainly a bit more gylcerol weight and the heroic tannins are more chewy. Very rich and pretty exciting. A bit more showy than the Lafite, serious wine but less classic. With time I expect the differences between these two wines will narrow a tad. Personally I think the sheer style and restraint of the Lafite is more exciting but it is very much down to personal taste. Nice to see difference in style between these neighbours.

St Supery 1999 was a pleasant relief compared to all of the very young wines above. Closer to a bordeaux than to the Australian wines, not syrupy and less hefty than many Californian wines I have tried. 13.8% alcohol which is not bad relatively speaking. Reminded me of some good quality NZ cabernets with well handled french oak and classic tiny touch of herbaceousness, classic winemaking. There is cool climate fruit here. The extra 3+ years in bottle this wine had over the others made it much more drinkable. A nice food wine; less savoury than bordeaux and far less concentrated and complex than the first growths.

Murdock Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (review)

87 points

Coonawarra, South Australia.

Dark even colour, nice shine. Fruit driven aromas, brambley with mint. This is a sleek concentrated wine. Plenty of blackcurrant fruit, some nice gylcerol and restrained alcohol. It is very noticeably Coonawarra, but thankfully without over the top mintiness.

Very much a fruit driven wine. Quite lovely and approachable. With a reasonably long life ahead of it.

But if you prefer more serious savoury wine you’d wonder what all the fuss it about. This wine is a darling of the critics, James Halliday recently gave it 97 points. It’s made by Peter Bissell the Qantas/Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine winemaker of the year (he makes Balnaves and Parker Estate).

What I like most about it is the restrained alcohol. It’s a premium wine, a worthy competitor to the top Western Australian (and Californian) cabernets. A reminder that Coonawarra is one of the serious cabernet regions of the world.

What I don’t like about it is the rather simple yet full throttle fruit flavour.

WAIT ON.. I wrote this before I had it with food.

Let me revise somewhat to say it is more old fashioned (eg added acid) and overt fruit than I give the impression (above). Wine critics ! They taste (rather than drink) too much – when they do they find it hard to revise their prior ratings (for many obvious and non-obvious reasons).

Bottom line – I won’t buy another bottle. Even for the reduced (now around $35 – odd the price has been coming down in spite of the rave critic reviews) price.