Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wine in 2010

After a year's hiatus, I'm picking this blog up again! So welcome back to me. Since the year is coming to a close, allow me to ruminate for a few moments on the state of wine and my take on the industry in 2010...

The top estates of the world have clearly become intended only for the growing super-rich class. The pricing of 2009 Bordeaux makes that perfectly evident. I think that the hyperinflated prices will lead to the consumption of less of this classic wine region by the vast majority of oenophiles. Furthermore, these absurd (if I may be blunt) pricing will lead to a commoditization of these wines; tragically, fewer and fewer bottles of these "perfect" (according to such highly-regarded voices as Robert Parker and James Suckling) wines will ever achieve their ultimate purpose, which is to be consumed. To me this represents a fatal flaw in the prestige-based method by which wines are purchased in the twenty-first century.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon. One of the most prevalent ones is the globalization of the wine world. Markets such as Hong Kong, China and Japan have exploded, and this has driven demand far higher for top-class Bordeaux (particularly first-growths) than it ever was. Chateaux have, of course, embraced this new customer base, as any capitalist corporation would. Mouton-Rothschild has gone so far as to take on a Chinese artist to design their famous label for 2008. I can't fault these estates for getting the pricing that they feel the market will bear for their product, but I lament the inability for average wine consumers anywhere in the world to be able to experience these legendary wines.

Another more insidious factor driving up demand and prices for top Bordeaux estates inspires more debate than almost anything else in the wine industry: The use of the 100-point system by the Big Two wine publications. I'm against the 100-point system, or any definitive wine rating system at all. In the past I've rated wines on this blog, but that's not something that I'll be doing as I go forward. Wine is far too subjective and malleable of a subject to be making definitive statements about. Instead I like to talk about my experiences with a wine, a winery, or the people in the industry. Each wine is different from bottle to bottle, day to day, and person to person. While you can say that a certain production has certain qualities (good or bad), there is no reason to think that any two wine experiences will be identical.

I'm looking forward to engaging in an ongoing conversation about wine and the wine industry. Hopefully you'll enjoy it as well.

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