How Wine Prices Have Changed

The value of French wine, then and now


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How Wine Prices Have Changed You might have noticed that I complain about wine prices. A lot. Maybe I’m just jaded, or spoiled since I’ve been buying wine for so long, or perhaps my standard of living has simply eroded. Then again, I’ve grown more mature and understand the actual value of things and how hard I’m willing to work for them like never before.

No matter what the cause, it seems to me that wine prices have gotten totally out of hand, forcing many of my favorite wines out of the realm of ordinary drinkers. My being a somewhat ordinary drinker, as opposed to taster, probably is the root cause of my frustration.

So am I on to something or is it emotion distorting my perspective? There is only one way to find out. Let’s take a look at wine prices 25 years ago and today. We’ll compare the same bottle of wine in both years, as well as for the same wine in corresponding vintages. I’ve dug into my stash of old wine catalogs and found the fall 1986 Crossroads catalog for reference. Let’s begin our journey back to the 80s with a look at France.

Photo courtesy niallkennedy via Flickr/CC

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  • I remember when 1st growth bordeaux cost cost $3.50 and $5.00 for a bottle of wine seemed outrageous.YesI'm that old.

    Oct 18, 2011 at 1:27 PM

  • Snooth User: WineBird
    105714 8

    The price of wine may have climbed, but nothing compared to what they're charging in restaurants. We used to consider 200% it's triple.

    Oct 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

  • Long may the speculators and the trophy collectors fixate on the Bordeaux and Burgundy Grand Crus and leave the Alsace to the common man. In many ways the overlooked Alsatians are more interesting and diverse, and certainly more accommodating at the dinner table.

    Seems like obscene price escalation began with the '82 vintage and has never looked back, as new armies of the nouveau riche flock to show off their new-found wealth in collectibles. The 1980 vintage was not good in Bordeaux, and a friend and I went through the card from the local vintner, rarely spending in excess of $10 - for the likes of Pichon Longueville, The worst mistake I ever made was to not pull the trigger on the '82 futures for Petrus at I think $650 a case, thinking it was overpriced. Oh well.

    Oct 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM

  • Snooth User: rtvfox
    809736 27

    Unfortunately the rise in the cost of French wine has a lot to do with the rise of the Euro versus the US Dollar, plus the explosion in wine drinking in China.

    Oct 18, 2011 at 5:52 PM

  • Snooth User: erniex
    634476 60

    Interesting benchmarks Greg, and a topic very worthy of attention. Just have to remember, that wine making (or picking rather) is a pretty labour intensive exercise, and obvoiously outsourcing is not really an option. As such I dont think a direct link between basic inflation rates and wine is necessarily adequate. Anyway goes to show how people likes to get f.....! The top end wine prices of today are simply ridicoulus, and you have to be very rich or extremely dumb -both probably- to find the Lafite and DRC prices justified by any measure.
    Working in Asia, I can testify that the Chinese are actually not that stupid, and they hate being fooled. The prestige rage on having to serve only Lafite to display personal wealth is Im sure will change sooner or later. Hopefully it can one day make those wines accessible again. Or maybe just wishful thinking...

    Oct 18, 2011 at 11:34 PM

  • There are certain names and estates that the investment community pile into because they are certain names and estates, not because they are intrinsically better than less well known producers, estates etc.

    This sets up a two tier market. One where speculation and cachet drives the price, and you buy cases but cannot open them, in order to nurse them years for the auction house, and the other which is the whole wide world of wine out there, ready to discover and drink.

    Places like Slovenija, Sardinia and Corsica produce excellent wine and for want of more distributors can replace wines were value and price are decoupling, like classed growth Bordeaux, which will need fifteen years of patience.

    I have seen tourists showing off and buying Grand Cru Saint Emilion in top class French restaurants, only to serve it with oysters and fish.

    These people deserve to get stung on price and we should leave them to it!

    Oct 19, 2011 at 5:51 AM

  • It's a sad thing. I once had a case of 1970 Rothschild Lafite which I began drinking in 1977 and it was gone by 1983. It was purchased for ~$30/bottle as I recall in the mid-70s. The wine is now so overpriced that I may never taste it again. It was nice to be able to "go-with-the-best" on a few special occasions, but this is now out of reach. Alas.

    Oct 19, 2011 at 6:25 AM

  • Snooth User: duncan 906
    Hand of Snooth
    425274 2,903

    There is no way I could ever justify spending hundreds of pounds on a bottle of wine and anyway there is then the risk that I might not like it,I do enjoy a good bottle however so I use and I also go to Calais at least once a year.That is how i get quality interesting wines at supermarket prices

    Oct 22, 2011 at 2:13 PM

  • Snooth User: duncan 906
    Hand of Snooth
    425274 2,903

    Write your comment here.

    Oct 22, 2011 at 2:13 PM

  • Is this article about the changing in prices with inflation or appreciation of wine based on when purchased?

    Oct 24, 2011 at 5:58 PM

  • Prices increase maybe but duty, technology, human labour... We cannot compare prices from 15, 20 or 25 year ago, it is impossible. But we can be frustrated we some wine area as Bordeaux, but for real wine lovers still have much more value than Bordeaux this area is not the center of the world or maybe for naive and label lovers , it is easy look at Burgundy the most desired terroirs by any winemakers in the world, or Rhone Valley, Tuscany, Catalunia and many others... Wine lovers are not limited by choices...

    Oct 24, 2011 at 6:06 PM

  • Snooth User: duncan 906
    Hand of Snooth
    425274 2,903

    Wine is Passion is right.Bordeaux is not the only wine making area.When I go to Calais I often buy Southern Rhones,Corbieres, and Cahors and when I do buy Bordeaux I usually go for the less fashionable appellations such as Cotes de Castillon or Cotes de Blaye.These represent quality drinking at value for money prices

    Oct 24, 2011 at 11:05 PM

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