This is the final part in a three part series on wine prices over the past decade. Part one, with an introduction and a look at the wines of Piedmont can be found here
, while part two, focusing on the wines of both Tuscany and the Rhone Valley can be found here
. Today I’ll be wrapping things up with a look at the big boys, Burgundy
, which we looked at last week, is a fringe player, Bordeaux is the bullseye. The most famous, most liquid, in a financial sense, and most heavily commoditized wine in the world; Bordeaux is the wine world in miniature. I used to love Bordeaux, as so many people did back in the day. It was easy to understand, had great variety, and was well-priced. Not to mention there seemed to be an infinite catalog of back vintages available at affordable prices, so even the neophyte could buy a few bottles and have a fair sense of what might come out of his cellar one day should he add some Bordeaux to it.
And things changed, slowly at first. Over a longer period, and to a lesser degree the caricaturization of Bordeaux blazed the path followed years later by Chateauneuf du Pape
, though with the Bordeaux Market the way it is, having good wine isn’t always required. Today, some of these wines are after more commodity than wine. Even through all of this, I admit to still having a soft spot for Bordeaux, and in truth there are still plenty of producers making good wines, and amongst the thousands of producers crowding the scene, there are some great values to be had. But today we’re looking at the big boys, or rather some of the smallest of the big boys. These are the wines I bought from the 2000 vintage, let’s see what’s happened with them.
Sommelier cartoon via Shutterstock
Across the board we can see that the prices over the span of a decade have almost uniformly increased faster than any other region we’ve looked at yet. In fact, many of the wines have doubled or tripled in price. It’s hard to see much value here, but on faith I would have to say that the Grand Puy Lacoste and Gruaud Larose still represent fair value for world class wines. The one standout here being of course Sociando-Mallet. A throwback wine, still hard and green in the context of Bordeaux, but lovers of its style like it. For $40 you’d be hard pressed to find a more interested bottle of wine. Will it increase in value over the coming year? I’d have to bet yes, since it is such a unique expression of Bordeaux, and many producers whose wines are roughly in the $20 to $50 range continue to offer compelling value, but above that range, the pickings seem to be getting awfully slim.
And that brings us back to where it all started, sort of. We obviously started with the wines of Barolo, but my premise was and remains that the jump in the pricing of Burgundy has shifted attention that was previously focused here to other regions, Barolo in particular. Unfortunately I wasn’t a big buyer of Burgundy a decade or so ago, so I’ll have to rely on purchase made from the 2005 vintage and compare them with their 2010 counterparts, a particularly apt comparison since these will likely turn out to be the top two vintages of the past decade.
Since we’re using a compressed time frame here, changes in the exchange rate can hardly be blamed for price jumps, and jumps in pricing similar to or greater than what we’ve seen in other regions should be even more alarming. Let’s see what the numbers say.
Well, the number’s don’t lie. What we’re seeing are jumps similar to those experiences over a decade, yet in other regions occurring in just five years. 2010 was a low yielding vintage in Burgundy so supply is unusually depressed, but in many cases these 2010 prices are very similar to their 2009 counterparts. Once the marketplace has crossed a threshold and determined that Domaine X in a good vintage is worth $Y, it’s almost impossible to uncross that threshold, particularly in a region like Burgundy where there might be a touch less influence wielded by the major critics.
Some relative bargains still remain. I think the Pousse d’Or
wines are better than they were in the past and Jadot still sells their wines for very fair prices, but more and more, wines are simply selling for sums of money that have more to do with their rarity than their intrinsic quality, not that this is a new development. I don’t begrudge the sellers, nor the buyers in these transactions, and wish I had some money lying around to pick some of those $200 bottles of Mugneret Gibourg Echezeaux which looks to be a great deal. I only bring all of this up to help myself, and perhaps a few readers along the way, better understand what is going on with the world of fine wine.
I’ve been fortunate to be a player on this field for more than two decades, albeit in a very very minor role. I find the interconnections between market segments fascinating, and sometime a little scary. I’ve bought many wines that I can no longer afford, some that I no longer like, and have always been fortunate to find wines to replace those that I’ve lost, but understanding why, and how wines move from one price level to another has always been a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it is now less of a mystery, and with the predictions I’ve made here it will be fascinating to discover in the years that come whether I was right, or just another cog in the wine industry blowing smoke out of his ass.