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).