Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Cadillac of Red Wine

Say what you want about the Holy Trinity of Italian red wines, Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello; in these heady days, I am smitten over Amarone.

Producers boutique and large have dramatically enhanced the quality in the last 20 years. Producers such as Allegrini, Dal Forno, Le Ragose and Viviani, along with some of the bigger properties, Bertani, Masi, Sartori and Zenato have all contributed to the deserved reputation of this great wine.

The press has been great, the scenery is breathtaking. The wines are versatile with many foods and the little sister, a Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, is a rock star. The winemakers are hard working, productive and honest. The stars are all lined up.

But I am looking in my wine closet and seeing bottles of French wine in there that I can no longer afford to buy. Wines like Mouton and Latour from Bordeaux, La Chapelle and La Landonne from the Rhone, and I am starting to see wines from the Veneto that are giving me that same queasy feeling. I fear I could be taking my last ride in the convertible with this pretty lady.

Let’s take a look at this.

Land Prices. In Bordeaux a hectare (2.47 acres) of first growth property goes for about €2,000,000 ($2,688,000). In the Veneto in the Cartizze vineyard a hectare of property there goes for about €1,000,000 ($1,344,000). Closer in to the Valpolicella Classico zone hectare of prime vineyard property goes for about €800,000 ($1,075,000). That’s $435,000 an acre. Primo acreage in Napa is going for about $180,000 an acre, no house, no winery, just land, maybe planted to vines, maybe not.

So land in Valpolicella is 2.4 times what it is in Napa. And if Napa producers can get $100 a bottle for their primo red, why can’t Amarone fetch $240.00?

The answer is, it can and it does, in some cases.


The rate at which Italian wine fashions are evolving is rapid. Lest we forget, let me illustrate.

Ads from the 1980's

So what am I getting at? Many producers who say they haven’t raised their prices in years are starting to do so. Along with the weakness of the dollar, we are starting to see the kind of increases in Valpolicella and Amarone this year that we have seen at the pump. In other words, dramatic. People will find a way to buy gasoline at the asking price, I’m not so sure of that for Valpolicella and Amarone. Puglia, down the road, is pumping out attractive wines, and Sardegna is offering great value for extracted fruit-forward reds. The Cadillac, though long and sleek and lovely, can rust and fall from favor. My concern is that we have already descended down that treacherous wine trail. And it might be hard to dig out of this one before it’s too late.

1 comment:

BK said...

RE: "Along with the weakness of the dollar, we are starting to see the kind of increases in Valpolicella and Amarone this year that we have seen at the pump."

Well, the American pump, anyway! And, couldn't agree with you more. Been lusting after good Amarones going on 10 years now.

However, the royal "we" have no use for Caddies!


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