Why do prices rise for some wines even after the wine's quality has peaked?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why do the prices of some wines continue to rise, even past their peak drinking window? Wouldn’t it be logical for the price to drop since the wine is degrading? Why are some people willing to pay such high prices for past-peak wine?

—Jacques, Quebec, Canada

Dear Jacques,

There are many factors that influence wine prices.

Obviously wine quality influences demand and, as with the price of any product, supply and demand are the driving forces. Many collectible wines are made in limited volumes, and of course, every time someone enjoys a bottle of a rare wine, the remaining bottles of that wine become that much rarer.

The scarcity of these rare trophy wines from top vintages can drive their prices ever higher, even as their quality becomes more suspect as time passes. Keep in mind that not everyone will agree on when a wine is at its “peak.” Some wine lovers might prefer older wines to younger wines, and vice-versa.

And for many collectors, there are emotional factors beyond a wine’s quality that can make a bottle more desirable. Some wineries and winemakers have cult followings that drive up prices, or the death of a winemaker might cause prices to spike.

And there is joy in opening and tasting rare wines from very old vintages beyond the wines' physical qualities. They offer an opportunity to experience a piece of history, to taste the exact same wine tasted by our ancestors, or by historical figures that are no longer with us, and to feel a connection with what was happening in the world when the grapes were grown and crushed. That's something you can't really put a price on, but that many collectors are willing to pay a lot for!

—Dr. Vinny

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