I had a conversation recently with a colleague that involved my telling him about a print column I was writing for Wine Spectator about cellaring wine.
Now, it seemed to me—perhaps foolishly—that for an enthusiast publication such as Wine Spectator, justifying the desirability and virtues of cellaring wines was unnecessary. My colleague disagreed.
He said, “Since so many wine lovers don’t cellar wine these days, I think you have to make more of an argument. I know many people who would view waiting 10 or 15 years as equivalent to walking on the moon. You tell them to wait, and they’ll chuckle and say, ‘How about I wait until I get home from the store?’”
“I do have to tell you,” he added, “that to most people under 40, the concept of aging wine is foreign. It’s sad but true.”
I cannot deny what we all know: Market studies repeatedly show that the majority of wines purchased in stores are consumed within 24 hours of being brought home.
So there’s no denying that not only do most folks not cellar wine, they apparently have no interest in doing so. So maybe my colleague is right in saying that it’s necessary—even in the pages of Wine Spectator—to make more of a case for what wine lovers have understood for generations: that fine wines worthy of that designation both deserve and reward additional aging in a cool space.
Have we now reached a point where certain wine things absolutely need to be said? Even if they seem obvious to some and off-putting to others? The need for, and desirability of, cellaring wines seems one such example.
Frankly, until this recent conversation with a colleague, I myself would not have thought that the desirability of cellaring wines was something that “needs to be said.” But our exchange made me think otherwise. Given the nature of what I do, I’ve probably been living too long in a cocoon.
So here’s today’s challenge: What do you think “needs to be said”? I offer my own thoughts on the matter, but I look forward to hearing yours. Something tells me that, given my aforementioned cocoon, I’m missing some very obvious but needing-to-be-said wine matters. For example:
It Needs To Be Said ...
That Fine Wines Deserve and Reward Aging. I don’t want to belabor the point, but in the spirit of the column, well, it needs to be said. If you love wine and you’re buying anything decent—let’s say any wine that costs $20 or more—you need to know that the odds are extremely good that the wine you’re buying today will taste better, and be more rewarding to you, if you stick it in a cool space for a year or even five or 10 years.
Now, I realize that creating a wine cellar is a dream for many people, especially those who are young and/or have little or no discretionary income. (I remember it all too well.) Still, if you can, you might want to think about buying an extra bottle or two and “losing it” in a cool space. Bottle by bottle, drop by drop, you will find yourself with an honest-to-gosh wine cellar. Fine wines deserve cellaring. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.
That the Crowd Isn't Always Right. Boy, if ever there was something that needs to be said, this is it. We live in an age where the “wisdom of the crowd” has become almost sacrosanct.
For a younger generation, the idea of neither trusting nor acknowledging an authority figure—any so-called expert—is the latest version of the Baby Boomers’ 1960s mantra “Don’t trust anybody over 30.” As someone who once chanted that very slogan, it would be hypocritical of me to not be sympathetic to the current mantra of trusting the crowd.
But it needs to be said: The crowd isn’t always right. Too often, a good portion of the crowd is just a bunch of sheep. Whether they care to note it or not (and usually they don’t), most of the examples of “wisdom” from the crowd are actually lifted from the research and guidance of more singular sources—the dreaded experts. As no less a genius than Albert Einstein famously said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
It needs to be said that the skepticism so rightly applied to various wine authorities—whether journalists, academics or wine industry figures—would be equally well applied to crowd wisdom. Before you invest your credulity in someone else’s opinion, it pays, in every sense, to look a little more closely at the basis for their opinions and judgments.
That There's No Such Thing As the Right Price. The current hoopla over the prices of the 2010 classified-growth red Bordeaux is only the latest example of a recurrent moral outrage rooted in the mistaken notion of a “right price.”
I’ve written frequently, and never flatteringly, about the price follies of the Bordeaux merry-go-round. Yet I long ago came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the “right price” for any wine. And that classified-growth red Bordeaux proves it.
Allow me to point out that when the 2000 vintage Bordeaux prices first appeared, people were flabbergasted that the first-growths would cost $400 a bottle at retail. Yet by the time the 2005 vintage appeared, those same estates sold—and sell they did—for $600 or $700 a bottle retail. Now, the 2010 vintage is on offer, and the top wines will retail for well over $1,000 a bottle.
“That’s insane!” you say. That’s what people said 10 years ago, 15 years ago and even 20 years ago, too. They were saying it when Opus One first asked (for its inaugural 1979 vintage) an unprecedented $50 a bottle.
So it needs to be said: There’s plenty of big money sloshing about in the world. Just because you (and I) don’t have it, doesn’t mean that others don’t. They do, and they’re willing—happy!—to spend it. Just ask any sommelier in any fancy restaurant from Monte Carlo to Shanghai.
When it comes to wine, the free market establishes the “right price.” Everything else is just, well, huffing and puffing. Ask the owners of famous Bordeaux châteaus. They’re huffing and puffing, too—all the way to the bank.
Merlin Guggenheim — Zurich, Switzerland — July 19, 2011 2:47pm ET
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