Wine Talk

Snooth User: dmcker

Utterly absurd

Posted by dmcker, Mar 1, 2012.

A couple of news items I was pondering today.

First, Robert Parker came out with his ratings for the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. Ever the masochist, I decided to go look at some prices in the marketplace after the ratings were released. Some samplings:

2009 Chatau Latour                        100 points                  $21,500 a case

2009 Chateau Margaux                   99 points                   $17,500 a case

2009 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou  100 points                   $ 4,000 a case

2009 Chateau Pavie                       100 points                   $ 5,400 a case

2009 Chateau Palmer                       97 points                   $ 4,500 a case

2009 Chateau Pichon Comtesse      95 points                   $ 2,900 a case

2009 Chateau Leoville Barton           93+ points                $ 1,490 a case

2009 Chateau Troplong-Mondot        99 points                  $ 2,150 a case

2009 Angelus                                     99 points                  $ 4,925 a case

2009 La Clarence (Haut Brion 2nd)   92 points                  $   950 a case

2009 La Croix (Beaucaillou 2nd)        91 points                 $   580 a case


$333/bottle, current release for Beaucaillou? $1,458 for a bottle of Margaux?? $450 for Pavie??? $375 for Palmer???? We're supposed to feel we've scored a bargain with Leoville Barton at $124, or the worst 1st growth 2nd label at $79, or the 2nd of a 2nd at nearly $50????? Again, these are all current releases! None of these wines should be drunk for several years, anyway. And, BTW, these prices are on the low side of the market for each label.

So my question is, who's buying these? And why, when there's so much good wine from other areas at much saner levels of pricing, that will give at least as much pleasure (even though I'll admit I do have an unfortunate weakness for Latour, initiated back when it was affordable--unfortunate in that it can undo small fortunes if excercised these days!)? And what kind of thin-aired atmosphere do the Bordelaise want to try to keep living in? After the Chinese economic bubble bursts, good luck, I want to say, but the devil on my other shoulder then pipes in with 'tough luck, you've earned it'.

To put things in perspective, GregDP's series of articles on the $2500 and $5000 dollar cellars would be made totally irrelevant if someone wanted to buy any of the above. Personally, I'd *much* rather have his $5,000 cellar than a single case of the 2009 Angelus!

The second news item was a marketing director for a Wall St. firm, earning $350,000 a year, crying poor and saying he can barely consider himself a full member of the middle class, living as he does in Manhattan. In that part of that town, trying to keep up with the real players in those firms (marketing directors are just support team players, anyway, with no real playing time in the big games), I can almost commiserate. Especially if he wants to buy a bottle of good Bordeaux out at a restaurant (add their markups to the costs above)!   ;-(    But then he also probably pays a higher percentage of tax than Warren Buffet...

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Reply by GregT, Mar 1, 2012.

D - it's been discussed ad nauseum at this point but obviously the wines are Veblen goods. I'm with you of course - Wine Spectator just had a cover story about the seconds and how they're bargains - the cheapest was like $150! But as long as there are people who want to be identified with Bordeaux somehow, there will be purchasers.  For example, there's a guy Leve who used to post on the Squires board. One day he decided he liked Bordeaux and for some reason it mattered to seem to be involved.  He wasn't in the business or anything but he started visiting the place and using hook or crook to get into the chateaux. 

Nothing at all wrong with learning about a region you love, etc. In fact, I respect it.

But for some reason it mattered to be perceived to be involved beyond the involvement of an enthusiast. So he started a blog called "the wine insider" or something like that and actually sent e-mails out to retailers and others around the country announcing that he was some kind of authority on Bordeaux and they should use his evaluations and ratings. That just seems a little needy and frankly, embarrassing.  Having watched this evolution in real time, it's a bit amazing.

But that's the appeal - people who don't necessarly know anything about wine have read about Bordeaux and feel that somehow it is worth knowing about. And they become like little Kato Kaelins - people who hang around.

Well it is cool I guess, but in the sense that having a Cadillac is the cat's meow.  All the hip cats thought it was super cool in 1958.  Today?

It's an entire region that is devoted to making fortunes for the top names. There are many crap producers and also many decent, hardworking producers who aren't getting any play because so many people think Bordeaux is overpriced.  I actually feel sorry for those people. But anyone who actually believes that Petrus is actually worth $4000 a bottle either hasn't had that much wine or has minimal confidence in his/her palate. 

I don't think it's the Chinese alone - it's all the arrivistes who want to impress those who they perceive as more tardy.  I went to dinner w someone a while ago who asked if he could order the wine, since he knew French wine and only the French made wine worth drinking.  I simply assumed that he knew so much more than I could ever hope to know. And there are clones of him all over the US, all over Europe, all over Asia.  At this point I do what most wine lovers do - I just ignore Bordeaux.

A shame too, because so many of the 2009s are really good. I do taste them every year. But at every price point, I can find wine that gives me as much pleasure for a lot less.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2012.

I pointed out a few 09' Bords in Fox's thread for $30 or less (Les Grand Chenes, Poujeaux, Le Crock), so it's not all bad, but the high end is comical, almost like in Napa with the likes of Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Bryant Family, Scarecrow, etc.

We're in the era of well branded luxury goods selling well north of $200, which might have something to do with more and more money going in to fewer hands. 

Buy call on Leoville Barton!


Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2012.

By the way, what's "hook or crook" Greg?

I've used Jeff's website a bit, lot of good info there, though I could see how he could come off as a bit annoying...

Reply by dmcker, Mar 2, 2012.

Really, Jon? You're playing their game.

Without the Latours and Margaux and Ducrus and Pavies playing striptease, would you really be interested in closing the deal with LB???

Lots more and better to do with that $1500 for a case. Let's let GregT use that budget and see what he comes up with (but Greg, stickies to a minimum, please...).  ;-)

Reply by shsim, Mar 2, 2012.

Haha I had to look up 'Veblen Goods'. And I absolutely agree with you dmcker and GregT. Even in california, we see that going on. Do any of you know Seasmoke cellars? I came upon them one day and was put off by the prices when you could not even have a taster... and this is not even close to the prices of the Bordeaux you mentioned here!

Good value is definitely a consideration. Even if one was rich as hell, getting a bottle of those Bordeaux is like having a Aston Martin for show. Not a big fan.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2012.

Ok, seriously, Dunn at $60-75 is one of the great deals in the cabernet world, or at least one of the few i've heard mentioned multiple times, and a great vintage of Leoville Barton at $95, which I can grab at a local retailer of mine, is absurd?

Agreed on Seasmoke Shsim, their pricing is high and I really don't care for their wines anyway. But no need to turn a complete blind eye to Bordeaux, i've found stuff for $20 in this famed vintage that i've liked a lot.

Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Mar 2, 2012.

Dmcker the same problem all around the world, just yesterday i have read on a good italian wine blog a review about a italian winery in Capalbio (southern maremma, near Morellino di Scansano zone), in this area there's no history about wine, no know how, nothing. This new winery came out with the first vintage ever in 2008, top bottle are chardonnay and a bordeaux blend, price? 80€ chardonnay, 130€ bordeaux blend! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? First vintage ever (older vineyard is 2003) more expansive than a Sassicaia? In a zone where no one before have made a good wine! Ok, wine is pretty good for the taster (88+ both) but......

Reply by GregT, Mar 2, 2012.

It's true that it's all around the world and there are people making wine that's priced at some crazy level.  There are also those who are firmly convinced that wine should be considered a luxury good rather than something to drink with dinner.  Those people might make some money but in the long term they'll destroy the wine market.  As a democratic drink, it has an unimaginable market size. As a luxury good, the market is smaller and more fickle because it's fashion-driven.

For personal consumption I pay pretty much zero attention to Bordeaux these days. But not to pick on them - it's pretty crazy to pay hundreds of dollars for any wine from anywhere. Even more so when, thanks to the internet, you know that a huge chunk of what you're paying is simply profit to the owners.  I don't begrudge anyone on earth from making a profit, but it's like anything else - if you put out the same pair of pants that someone else does, but you hire a celebrity to wear your pants and consequently you charge twice the price for the people who want to be somehow, no matter how distantly, associated with that celebrity (who may in fact never even wear the pants), then you understand P.T. Barnum and you're cashing in on that insight. 

When the experienced reviewers, who are supposed to taste many wines from many places, are telling you that the "deals" are the second wines that they score say, 90 points and that are sold for only $345 or so, then the only thing you can wonder is WTF?  Remember, one of PT's books was titled "Humbugs of the World".

Reply by dmcker, Mar 2, 2012.

Yeah, and also remember that, say, 92 points these days is the old 89. What does that make 90 these days? Off the 12-point scale, methinks. But that's bringing up point scoring, which is an entirely different subject, also discussed ad nauseum in recent years.

Does look like that Jeff Leve dude does have his unfan club. Anonymous blogs ripping into him, and all. I hadn't read him before so when I went to google him I ran across all sorts of stuff....

Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Mar 2, 2012.

In Italy we say "fare il passo più lungo della gamba" - "making steps longer than your legs" a new winery with a hi-tech cellar, extreme luxury and any other facilities needs huge bank loans and you must pay it. That's why a new wine have this price. Bank loans. The problem is without history, world famous class etc... who gonna buy your wine with that price (and unproved quality) ? Bolgheri have cellars full of unselled wine...

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2012.

I think, absolutely that the new wineries trying to enter the luxury goods market are the worst and most annoying. Just hit the ignore, there will always be good, solid winemakers/proprietors who don't want to play the marketing game and certain regions without as much exposure.

Reply by EMark, Mar 2, 2012.

Is anybody prepared to call the pricing of Bordeaux, and, maybe even, Napa Cabs a bubble?  That is the contention of poster BrugermanRose in a response on the Daily Rant page.   

It is easy to clearly see economic bubbles in the rear view mirror.  You have to be pretty good, though, to see one right in front of your eyes.  Generally, emotions (irrational exuberance) fog peoples' objective view. 

My own view is that, unfortunately, this trend (bubble?) will only increase.  I think there is a pretty limited (relative term) supply of Bordeaux wine, and, so, the elevated pricing is sustainable.  What will happen is that other regions will become more trendy, and thus pricing will skyrocket.  For example, I think there are a lot of particiants, here, who fear that Spanish wines, clearly one of the best buys in the wine world, will suddenly catch on.  While they won't reach the pricing heights of Bordeaux, they will leave the domain of excellent price value wines.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 2, 2012.

Good rant fodder. I've nailed a pair of good ones this week methinks.


The top Chateauneufs under $100- WTF?

100 ways to screw the consumer!


I screwed up a little. I awarded a Rocky in the first video, I should have awarded a Cash in the second!

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2, 2012.

What you say about Spain Mark, has pretty much already happened with Vega Sicilia.


Reply by dmcker, Mar 2, 2012.

Mark, tulipmania is a favorite business school example from decades past of the granddaddy of crazy, froth-of-the-froth economic bubbles, and I can remember writing something on it 30 years ago, trying to imagine what similar bubbles might've been in Roman days. Call them also positional goods, or Giffen goods (the Scottish economist who wrote about that type of economic behavior in Victorian England, before Thorstein Veblen popularized 'conspicuous consumption' over in the colonies). Yeah we are in a Bordeaux bubble now, but whether that bubble continues to expand a while longer--or bursts--depends on a number of external factors, whether it's a consumer backlash (led by GDP?!) or a Chinese bubble burst (yeah, I have predicted that one on these boards before) or extended financial malaise in Europe and elsehwere, or some other political or economic fiasco coming out of North America or the Middle East or wherever, or all of the above.

Greg (DP), great rants this week! First rants I've seen (afraid I haven't seen them all) that were properly Rant-like, uppercase and all. You should get a thread going here on the forum asking for the input you ask for there into people's choice awards for wine, etc....

Reply by dmcker, Mar 2, 2012.

OK, a couple of updates. The first from Live-Ex:


Bordeaux 2009 floodgates open

Demand for Bordeaux 2009 has surged following the release of Parker's in-bottle scores. (Visit for his full vintage report.) In the last 24 hours, 2009 has accounted for 62 per cent of Liv-ex turnover, with the Super Seconds generating the largest share of trade.

Many of the critic's 19 "perfect" wines have seen prices climb rapidly this week. Pavie has risen 18 per cent to £2,130, Ducru Beaucaillou is up 19 per cent to £2,130 and Pontet Canet has risen 26 per cent to £1,575. The two 100-point First Growths, however, have yet to benefit from Parker's praise. Are their scores already in the price?

The chart below shows Pontet Canet's price movement since release and is taken straight from the pages of Cellar Watch. Check back later today for another trading update. 

Reply by shsim, Mar 2, 2012.

Hmm you guys think this bubble wont be a long term trend? I am refering to how expensive cars remain as they are- a mainstay in the world of expensive cars. They take hits from the economy too but they are still there. So I wonder if this Bordeaux bubble will follow that trend. I dont know much though so I was wondering what you guys have to say... generally there seem to be a phase of trends that the public follows.. like now many are into Moscato (at least here).

Like GregT said they are veblen goods. And people who know about Seasmoke cellars and actually buys them are getting sucked into the game.

At some point, people(Snoothers) perhaps should make a scale that incorporates value into the ratings. I know that is not objective for the quality of the wine but well we let Robert Parker and his team do that... whether a bottle is good value plays a big factor. Although, people tend to psychologically convince themselves how good the wine is when they know how much it cost them... (It will be funny to make people blind taste and see their reactions!)

Haha i agree, great rants. I really enjoy hearing about what everyone has to say.

Reply by dmcker, Mar 2, 2012.

The second is reportage from Dr. Vino. I take the liberty of reprinting it in its entirety here, since that entirety is succinct and to the point. I've been hesitating to visit Wine Berserkers because, well, I'm sure they're going well berserk over there. Probably will visit one of the next couple of nights when I've had most of a good bottle, or two, under my belt and I'm ready for some heady entertainment...


Parker perfection: 100 points for 19 Bordeaux 2009s

Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate has started arriving in mailboxes and issue #199 aas published on their site late yesterday. The top scores are mind-numbing. If you thought his love of Chateauneuf du Pape’s 2007 vintage was the high-water mark for his scores, think again: Parker hands out 100-point scores to 18 red wines, with several others (including first growths, Mouton, Lafite and Margaux) getting a mere 99 points.

Underwhelmed by the list, commenters on wineberserkers reacted, saying “Smith Haut Laffite. Wow.” and “It’s only March 1st – not April 1st. Is this serious?!?” and “When will Mouton Cadet [$8] join the list?” and “Who cares about any of the 99-point crap?” Tim Atkin tweeted, “Where does RP go from there? Explode in a puff of ludicrous hyperbole? 2010 is a better vintage.”

It will be interesting to see if these push prices any higher (as will likely be the case for Fourtet and Smith Haut Lafitte, which were originally forecast to have scores of 98 maximum) or lower in the case of Lafite-Rothschild, which had been coveted by Asian auction bidders before slowing but is not on the list of those receiving perfect scores. Or if it will elicit as much of a yawn from buyers has it does from the online commentariat–after all, 20 wines had received scores as possible 100 pointers based on barrel tastings. In January, I suggested that rampant score inflation posed the biggest threat to the use of scores and eighteen 100s do not reverse my view. What’s your take?

Parker confronted the issue of “hype” and inflation head on, saying:

So has there been careless scoring inflation? Of course not. The same standards that gave what looked to be super conservative and very modest scores 32 years ago, are the same criteria that are in play today. The problem is that 2009 is the greatest vintage I have ever tasted in Bordeaux. I am willing to say it loudly, and stake my reputation on it. In fact, perhaps the most remarkable thing about 2009 is that there is no “buzz.” We are all tired of the newest Vintage of the Century, but when the real one happens, it has to be recognized, and someone has to point it out. That is not called hype, but accountability, fairness, and independent professional reporting.

A few vintages ago, Parker wrote an essay entitled “Is 2005 the Perfect Vintage?” He gave out only two 100 point scores that year. In Food & Wine he wrote saying “But it would be reckless to claim the finest 2005s will surpass the top wines of 2003, 2000, 1996.” Vintage of the century, indeed–and this time he means it, dammit!

Here’s the list of Parker’s perfect 100-point Bordeaux 2009:

Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse
Bellevue Mondotte
Clos Fourtet
Cos D’Estournel
Ducru Beaucaillou
Haut Brion
Leoville Poyferre
La Mission Haut Brion
Le Pin
Pontet Canet
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge

Also: Pape Clément blanc

Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Mar 2, 2012.

I think this bubble can't improve to much next years, one simple reason, people can't buy wines with that prices. High prices must be paired with luxury and luxury is a few people stuff. I can buy an expansive bottle for a great celebration (tonight i've uncorked a Jaquesson champagne for a friend became father) but surely not a 1000+ € one. Luxury must be rare, how u can onestly sell one milions bottles of wine at the same price of a 6000 Montrachet Gran cru bottles? That can't happen.

I've sayed that before but in Bolgheri, where prices are pretty high for italian market, lot of wineries have in its cellar a lot of unselled wine. Why? Because they haven't the brand, haven't the history and its price is not competitive. If i have to spend 100+ € for a Bolgheri cab i'm gonna buy Sassicaia and not your unknown bottle.

GdP i relly enjoy your rant! Very nice!

Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Mar 2, 2012.

RP probably have more maket moving value than a Standard&Poor's rating. There's some rumors about Parker will leave the leadership of WineAdvocate and Antonio Galloni gonna be the next cheaf. Is it true? That can be intreresting Galloni showed really different preferences for wines.

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