I went to an amazing dinner on Tuesday night at Château Latour. It will be one I remember for the rest of my life. I tasted three 100-point bottles of Latour – one 1929 and two 1959. Plus, there was a bottle of 1899 that was pretty close to 100 points as well!
I felt very lucky and full of emotion drinking those wonderful nectar-like bottles. They were served to a couple dozen wine merchants and collectors during a multi-course dinner at the chateau. I will go into later the details of the blind tasting dinner where these bottles surfaced ...
But I keep thinking, even deciphering, what Latour’s president Frederic Engerer said just before the red wines began to be served. And his words were thought provoking. Here is the most important part of his short discourse:
“In these days where the prices of our wines are moving to levels never seen before and where the economic dimension of our activity too often prevails upon the cultural and social dimension, we at Latour, remain strongly, if not only, driven by passion and pleasure. And I know that those of you who have followed the estate’s activity since Francois Pinault took over, understand very clearly what I mean.”
I keep scratching my head a little over this paragraph. In fact, I still am as I write this! Perhaps it would be a little clearer in French? But I think what he means is that we all have a tendency to focus too much on the outrageous prices of wines like Latour these days instead of the superb quality of the wines. They are great wines regardless of the price.
Many people seem too pissed off that the prices for Latour and other great wines are now out of their reach. And I empathize with them. They certainly are expensive. It seems crazy to pay $3,000 a bottle of 1982 Latour, but people are doing on a daily basis. And they are popping the corks. And paying close to $1,000 a bottle for the 2005, even though it’s not even in bottle?
But there are lots of things that I would like to have, even consume, and I can’t afford them. That’s life. Everyone has the same problem.
I had a similar conversation at the dinner table with Corinne Mentzelopolous, the owner of Château Margaux, and wine writer Stephen Spurrier, who is old friend of mine. It was during an international press dinner at Mouton-Rothschild on last Monday that Stephen said, ‘Why are people so hostile about the prices for first growths these days? It’s the same with lots of products. I would love to own a Rolls Royce, but I can’t afford the price. But I am not hostile about it.”
I would love to have the financial means to buy a bottle of the 1929 or 1959 and drink it with my best friends – even a romantic dinner with my girlfriend or a meaningful lunch with my dad. But it’s not possible and never will be at the current prices for these wines and most other vintages of Latour. But it doesn’t make me angry, not even sad. There are so many other great bottles out there anyway. And we will find them together ...
And I am not sure that the 2006 futures or en primeur from Latour will be in my financial grasp, nor in the grasp of most other wine lovers. But this doesn’t mean that Latour, Margaux, Le Pin, Lafleur, DRC, Comte Georges de Vogüé, Screaming Eagle, Harlan and all the other trophy wines of the world aren’t some of the best wines ever produced on the face of the earth. And we shouldn’t forget that, even when we are angry.