Sunday, September 18, 2022

Wine, Watches & Cigars – Is There No Ceiling?

Recently, I popped into my local grocery store, Central Market, in Dallas. On the wall was a bottle of Château Pontet-Canet 2016 for $200.00.

On the Rolex website, one of their newest watches, a GMT-Master II “Pepsi” lists for $10,750 retail, but try and find one new for that price. On the secondary market though, you might be able to find one for twice retail.

I’m reading an article in Cigar Aficionado, and they’re talking about Cohiba Cuban cigars now retailing for over $100.

Before the great disruption event of 2016, you could have easily found a bottle of Pontet-Canet for under $80, still a price most people wouldn’t consider, except for maybe a special occasion, and well above the price I remember seeing the 1982 stacked in my local Safeway (for $12.99!). A Rolex, five years ago you could have gone into a local AD (authorized dealer) and picked one up, at retail. Still a pricey proposition, but reachable for folks with the means. And that Cohiba Splendido? Well, in Canada or Italy I saw them for about $10, back in the day. Still, a pricey smoke, but not a C-note!

Something is out of whack. Are we living in a world exclusively comprised of billionaires? Is there no ceiling on these consumer items? Have we all gone mad? Where in hell have we landed? Is there a way off of this planet?

I have my science fiction dystopian theory about this which I will share. Sometime in the summer of 2016, around July or August, Planet Earth, traveling through space, drifted through a cosmic cloud that caused half of the people to lose all sense of order in their daily lives. Politically, socially and economically. Around the time Covid arrived on the scene, we were so topsy-turvy as a people, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary anymore. And along with Covid came disruption of goods and services. People started walking away from jobs, relationships, you name it. We found ourselves in uncharted territory.

Meanwhile, the earth keeps turning, and people try and piece back their lives, put the puzzle back together. And then we look up find ourselves looking at wines costing $200, watches costing $20,000 and cigars costing $100. Something’s gotta give.

The good news is, you can still find terrific wines for under $20, really nice watches for under $500 and eminently enjoyable cigars for $5. Maybe not the 1% of the 1%, but who among us belongs to that club? Or would even want to be?

The thing is, for many of us, wine and watches, and to a lesser extent, cigars, are everyday items. Common things. Something that we think are within our grasp. But when they start becoming unattainable, even for folks with a little money in their bank accounts, what is it saying about who we are as a people?

I know, for my part, I can just limit my cravings, or eliminate them altogether. But those expensive items won’t just go away. In fact, they are in short supply. Good luck obtaining a Submariner at your local Rolex store. Or a Cohiba cigar from Cuba. Or a Screaming Eagle from Napa. But someone out there has the money and the “connections” to find and buy, and hopefully enjoy these stratospheric consumer goods.

Italy has some of that. But Italy hasn’t built their brand on the premise of rare and unavailable. Oh yeah, you can look for, and find, a bottle of Soldera. And you will pay dearly for it. But Italian wine doesn’t orbit around that sun. For lack of a better term, the Italians have “diversified their portfolio.”

I’m happy about that. Our French cousins, especially in Burgundy and Bordeaux, have arrived to a place where wines we once drank, even when we were young and broke, are no longer accessible to folks, who are now more mature and well-heeled. And they sell everything they make! But where’s the fun in seeing your wines become captive to a culture aroused by a fetishism of rarity. They’ve become a wingless bird, a rara avis. Prisoners in a wine cellar, seldom if ever to see the light of day, the warmth of the dinner table, the comradery of friendship and family. I couldn’t imagine an Italian wine like this, in my world. It would be barbarous.

I reckon much of this is built upon the sand castle of prestige and privilege. Folks want to be seen as being “in,” and having the means to show it. All “A” side, no “B” side kinda thing. Italy has some of that status addiction, but when it is all said and done, Italians want to have a good time. They want to open the bottle, brandish the Cartier and smoke the robusto. Italians want to enjoy their life, not lock it up in some closet, safe or humidor. They find a way.

America, on the other hand, will we find a way? Or our way back? It might entail going forward through an inferno. I feel it. I see it. We’re living in a time unlike anytime I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Will we make it? I really don’t know. But I do know it won’t be because Italy has made it impassible and futile to move forward, at least with their wines. And thank the good graces for that. Gratitude for the obtainable, the experience made available. The gate unlocked; the door open. The table set. The wine ready. For all. Thank you, Italy.


© written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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