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March 8, 2011

Sherry-Lehman is selling a Lafite-Rothschild cognac for something like $495 a bottle, a case will run you around 5 grand. What makes a bottle of wine, cognac, etc. worth that? I don’t mean in the what kind of colossal douchebag spends 500 bucks for a bottle of wine way, though that is a totally legitimate question to ask. I mean, what differentiates a $400 bottle of wine from a $100 bottle or a thousand dollar bottle. The only reasons I can imagine are status, to show that you have that kind of money to throw around or you are possessed of some bizarre wine fetish which is only satisfied by experiencing the micro differences in taste and smell that different wines may possess, differences that I’ve yet to encounter. It’s all such a mystery to me.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Fat Al permalink*
    March 8, 2011 7:45 pm

    You’re such a babe in the woods.

    • March 8, 2011 9:22 pm

      That’s not an answer.

      • Fat Al permalink*
        March 8, 2011 9:48 pm

        I’m not sure you’ve asked a question.

        • March 8, 2011 10:11 pm

          Sure I did. Why do people spend that kind of money, not everybody who does is a colossal douchebag, maybe, so what do they get out of it?

  2. March 8, 2011 10:04 pm

    I have no idea either. The only way I would spend that kind of dough on booze is if it would keep me drunk forever and a day after I died. In fact, I’d give my left foot for such a magical elixir.

  3. Fat Al permalink*
    March 9, 2011 12:44 am

    But that question can apply to any luxury. Why don’t we all wear the same pair of jeans until it falls apart, eat only canned chili and drink Piel’s Light (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?

    People pay extra for things they want beyond the bare necessities. People buy cars when they don’t need them at all, and some people buy some pretty damn fancy cars. Why? I don’t know, they like them, they think they’re cool or fun, they want to impress their neighbors, they want to piss off their neighbors, or some other reason I don’t comprehend. Apply the same to bigger/nicer homes, fancy clothes, rare baseball cards, first editions, jewelry, fine dining, electronics, fancy bikes, sports/theater/concert tickets, travel, and pretty much everything else some people choose to spend their money on.

    Why do people pay absurd amounts of money for a bottle of wine or booze? Because they can, because collecting rare and expensive things is fun, and sure, because they’re jackasses. But my point is that they’re no more (or not much more) jackasses than anyone else who blows their money on something you find incomprehensible.

    • March 9, 2011 1:20 am

      I’ve never pissed out a new car or a rare baseball card.

      But, it is also a sincere question. It can’t only be “look how rich I am”, so what is it that people are looking for when they spend that kind of money on booze. And the people selling the booze for 3, 4 hundred have to a have a story for why they are charging that much. I want to know what they say and what the buyers expect

      . New cars are shiny, drive fast and can be outfitted with soft Corinthian leather; jewelry can be exquisitely crafted and beautiful; a large home can have a home theater, ping pong room and gourmet kitchen. What is the selling point, the justification, for a $500 bottle of wine? Seriously, no snark.

  4. Fat Al permalink*
    March 9, 2011 6:33 pm

    So your problem is that you can — but don’t have to — consume it? Other than flipping it or putting it in the spokes of your bike, a rare bottle of wine is just as useful as a rare baseball card. I daresay far more useful, at least it can get you drunk once and might even get you laid.

    But seriously, I’m going to try to address what I think is your question. I don’t think your question is why someone would buy a $50 bottle of wine when they can get a perfectly good one for $12. If that’s the question, then you just don’t see the point in spending more than you have to in order to get a (usually) better quality, less mass-marketed, less generic product. I think your question is why would you buy a $500 bottle of wine when you can get one you will probably enjoy just as much for $50, or, at least, that’s the question I’m going to address.

    There are a couple of explanations people would give: rarity/scarcity, quality, bragging rights, pedigree are some that come to mind. Rarity and scarcity are red herrings. There are plenty of $50 wines that are produced in lots of 200 or so cases (which is tiny). By contrast, Lafite Rothschild, perhaps the most famous wine in the world, produces 15-20,000 cases per year. And the newest vintage, 2009, which hasn’t even been released, is available for purchase at $1,500 per bottle and up. Now even with the huge production, Lafite is truly rare and scarce because every schmuck in China and Japan needs a case, but that’s another story. Quality? Again, it is cool to taste some exceedingly rare $500 wine that was made by some master producer in the Rhone Valley, but does it really crush wines you can get for a fraction? Rarely.

    The real answer other than pure status (check out the diamond-crusted cell phones they sell) is that the people who spend that kind of green on a bottle of wine do it because they can, and because they want to, and they want to because it tastes good, it’s cool, it’s rare, and they get to say they did it — which may not impress you, but will impress other wine aficionados. And hell, why not, there’s no moral victory in being Hetty Green.

  5. March 9, 2011 10:39 pm

    I had to look up who Hetty Green was. A woman after my own heart!

    You did answer the question I was getting at. While I certainly understand your eloquent response, I don’t really get it. But, ultimately, it’s not really for me to get, and if it brings pleasure to someone what the hey. But I will confess that I am aware of the somewhat problematic nature of my standard for excess, which is pretty much just beyond what I am willing to spend, enjoy, tolerate. Anything beyond that limit quickly becomes sort of morally suspect.

    If the master vintner is making wines that aren’t really better than other wines, what makes him a master?


  1. Hetty « The Half Empty Glass

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