The motif this week started out when I mistakenly thought, with the recent internet auction in Hong Kong, that 1982 Lafite went for $820,000 a case. Actually, that was the total for all the lots. When I looked it up, the Lafite went for around $3,500 a bottle. Still pretty untouchable for most of us. And, according to my retailer friend, down from $5,000 a bottle he sold around four months ago. Even the whales’ cellars are filling up.
Our conversation dovetailed around a recent article Matt Kramer wrote, called “The Big Lie of Wine Democracy.” Matt’s article is a must read. Read it all. One quote, though: "The Big Lie of our time is that you can have all the quality that comes from artisanal craftsmanship and true fine-wine grape sourcing available to you in unlimited quantity and limitless distribution wherever you go."
If it’s a guy, I can usually say something like, “You know the cheerleader you lusted after in high school? She’s not cheerleading anymore. She has three kids, her boobs are drooping a little and she has a fuller tummy.” If it’s a woman, I try the old, “You love your old man don’t you? But he’s 20 years older than he was when you fell madly in love with him. He may be ageing OK, or he may not. Some of his parts might be drooping a little, too. But he’s not a white wine. No, that tired Chardonnay is not your old man.”
Italians have their favorites, even some collectables. But the whole sequester-it-up-in-a-closet thing usually isn’t the norm. Treasure chest wine isn’t that important in Italian life. Vacations are. Families are. Paid off housing is. Nice, really nice, clothes are. Wine? Kinda like zucchini or pasta or coffee. Pretty important that quality is high, but it doesn’t have to be stratospheric.
The whole motivation for indulgence versus sustenance rises from fear, perhaps of death? Some people seek validation to prevent them from slipping into the invisible chasm of irrelevance. So they chase the big trophy wines. For those whom wine is a part of food and living, this isn’t the case. Wine is liquid food, meant to complement the meal and sustain the pleasure of living. If one is looking to fool oneself into the impossible delusion of immortality, all these trophies will do nothing but gather dust and make work for those who will eventually parcel them out. That bottle of Morellino isn’t diminished just because someone would rather have the 1982 Lafite. It’s sustenance rather than indulgence. I would rather have that humble bottle of Morellino than the can of worms that accompanies the constant compulsion to prove to oneself (and the world) that they still “have it” in pursuit of rare and vacuous indulgences.
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