Another ICYMI – high priced wine-ethics


This is a tough one, isn’t it?

I always review wines in the same way – is this a great Bourgogne? Or is this a great grand cru? I never tell you that a particular wine is worth a special search unless it is on another level to ‘the average’ – even ‘excellent’ doesn’t cut it! Despite that, over the last few years, the cuvée of Romanée-Conti has consistently got my thumbs up – even at the latest price. From memory, the 2020 was close to €3,000 a bottle – assuming you were allowed to buy even a single bottle from one of the official importers.

The (grey) market price for that bottle is already 4-5 times the initial purchase price – and who knows the price in a restaurant! Because 500 cases for the whole world are clearly insufficient to meet the clamour to buy.

In a different life, I have bought and drunk Romanée-Conti, I think the 2000 vintage cost me only 800 Swiss francs or roughly €500 at the time – but my earnings allowed me to do this. Today, even the entry price is beyond my personally imposed buying limit – but, given my age and the ‘above average’ size of my cellar, the volume of my personal purchasing has shrunk to such an extent that I’m, anyway, no longer on the list of ‘allowed’ buyers.

Now we come to the use of the word ‘ethics.

When I recommend wines, it is done so purely with quality in mind. Simply put, that’s because everybody’s concept of value is different – you cannot have a benchmark yes/no ‘value’ for wine for people of different backgrounds – even when a bottle may cost more than most people pay for a car! Ethics is a barbed word and it implies yes/no or black/white – and life is not a binary choice. Describing drinking Romanée-Conti as unethical would suggest that the search for the best (in any walk of life) should be cancelled. So what then of the vineyard? Should it be uprooted? If so, does that mean that Musigny or La Tâche would be next? The logical extension of this would be that Burgundy should blend everything and only produce Côteaux Bourguignone…

The search for the best in any endeavour is costly, be that cars, watches, HiFi, computers Hermes bags – you name it – and yes, wine. In all things, it is about personal choice. I have my own – personal – rules but ethics is an unhelpful word – it is one to avoid…

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 2 responses to “Another ICYMI – high priced wine-ethics”

  1. suvroinhi5th October 2023 at 2:44 pmPermalinkReply

    Rather than ethics, I want to ask whether some prices have any correlation with quality, OR most likely these are for investments alone, not for drinking! (For the vast majority of cases)

    I once asked a luthier whether an audience in a concert hall can make out the difference in sound between say a $50K violin and a $M Stradivarius? His answer was NO, but to an accomplished violinist, the quality of the sound would be discernible when playing.

    For the complexity of wines, for most people price is often a proxy for quality – who has the time like Bill to invest in subtle differences between one vineyard row in Burgundy Grand Cru vs. the adjacent row!

  2. bmcq10th October 2023 at 5:03 amPermalinkReply

    Ethics, principles to quietly consider reflexively.

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