Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wine snobbism & winehippie...sm!

I remember clearly first time I tasted a very expensive wine. It was an Echeuzeaux Domaine de la Romanee' Conti vintage '82. It was a present, not for me of course, but for the owner of the Angelus restaurant where I used to work as a sommelier, by a weird and very funny old man that used to be Ringo Starr's agent...but that's another story.  At the time I was told that its price would have been around £2000 in a restaurant and my first thought when I was offered to taste it was.....how will something so expensive taste?  Will I really be able to understand if it's worth its price or not? Will I really taste the value of £2000?


Few years have passed since then and during this time I have been very lucky working with amazing wine lists and having the responsibility to taste wines such as Chateau Margaux '59, Chateau Angelus (several vintages)...even a very cloudy Chateau Cheval Blanc '19 and much more, before bringing them to the tables and serve them. Of course I was not paying for those bottles and maybe this made me enjoy even more these wines but every time I was opening a bottle I was always deeply wondering what was its real value.
I know this is a very tricky subject as the price of the wine is not only influenced by the market request (and of course it is unfortunately) but also by the work that lays behind; the work of the people in the vineyard and in the cellar and also the time that the bottle is spending waiting to get ready. All these factors will have a result on the price because they are involved in the winemaker's investment. Even if not all of us would firstly think about it I am sure that once we are explained for example what is the cost of manual work in the vineyard or how long a Barolo producer would have to wait before selling his wine and have an economical result, they would probably agree that not all wines can have the same price.
I suddenly find myself talking here about the price of wine after reading a couple of articles that recently impressed me. One about a bottle of 1811 Sauternes Chateau d'Yquem sold for £75.000 and another about considerations on whether it is possible or not buying a decent wine for a fiver.
Calling myself a winehippie I meant to underline that I don't like snobbery and that I strongly believe that a wine can be good no matter what's the price or the name on the label and it certainly shouldn't be judged on the base of that but of course there are exceptions. I am not sure that the minimum limit for a decent wine would be £5. Maybe the right person to answer to this question would be an honest winemaker but I am pretty sure that it is not that easy to find a decent wine for £5 because,as I said, the wine has production costs that are connected to its quality. And the whole wine market/wine business is having too much negative effect on this.
But as for everything on this world more than the price what you should really consider is the value.
The price should be balanced by the quality and by how much you can afford.
So sometimes a £10 wine can be your best buy of the year and a bottle of 200 years old sweet nectar from botrytized grapes, costing you a life savings, could be corked or just nothing special.

I am not trying to develop a wine philosophy, I am just saying: drink and enjoy whatever you can afford always remembering the work done by the people who have made that wine.
Whatever will surprise you will be worth its price.