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Friday, December 14, 2007

Does it make Cents to Drink the Wine of the Year?

Needless to say, a quick bit of clarification is in order. I am not speaking of ‘your wine of the year,’ I am speaking of the publishing giant, The Wine Spectator & their annual, massively circulated issue that stacks up the year’s best wines as they see them. To clarify, I am not here to bitch about the process, critique their selections, nor do I find any fault in the magazine establishing its own parameters to anoint a particular wine w/ said moniker. The hypothetical question is this; if you bought Clos des Papes 2005 (or last years 2001 Tenuta Nuova from Casanova di Neri) before it was celebrated with such an honor, would you still bother drinking it?

The easy response would be, friggin’ a, it must be some kick ass juice to receive such an accolade! Not only will I score some points w/ my high brow friends for having the wine world’s best booby prize, I may be able to pick up some chicks in the process. Anyways, it’s the wine of the year, it has to be great, so of course I’ll imbibe said juice w/ all the sultry pleasures that the bottle entails.

One of the complicating matters that places this predicament on more untenable grounds is that the wine of the year becomes an instant cash cow for any retailer, distributor or any entrepreneurial flipper wanting to capitalize on such hyperbolic press. Within hours, minutes and even seconds of the announcement, prices escalate like exploding M80 fireworks, annihilating the frantic consumer's hopes to find any restitution from the site (which feverishly attempts to update each retailer's quickly vanishing stock in their search engines).

The Wine of the Year, initially selected due to its relative value of say 60 dollars and change, instantly becomes a 200 plus dollar luxury trophy, set for mounting alongside bronzed statues of vinous greats such as Robert Mondavi, Dom Perignon and Emile Peynaud. The crème de la crème of cinema has its Oscar award winners; wine has its Fall Issue of the Spectator’s top 100. Undoubtedly the winner each year has been, at the very least, an outstanding wine worthy of universal praise and is sure to deliver a lovely drinking experience. There hasn’t been a dud in the bunch, though I’d be hard pressed to find unanimous agreement amongst the most discerning cliques of oenophiles that any winner of the prestigious award was ‘truly worthy.’

Well, Clos des Papes 2005 was indeed a great 60 dollar wine, but is a bile spouting mess of frivolous proportions at the asking currency of 2 Ben Franklin greenbacks. Much the same could be said of past winners Insignia, Cinq Cepages, Tenuta Nuova and company as this award seems to change the game dramatically. High end wine buyers can justify price when it involves pristinely stored bottles that are decades old, first growth Bordeaux of regal inheritance, gems that are of the most scarce quantity and transcendent wines of singular vintages as they all seem to fetch defensible price tags from their rabid, frothy buyers....but can that same buyer defend the overstuffed tariff required to pilfer the Wine of the Year?

To drink or not to drink, that is the question. The rational mind says flip like you are auditioning for a balance beam routine on Bella Karoli’s gymnastic squad, freeing up the cash flow to buy a subjectively (or objectively) better wine, worthy of the dollars that need not be inflated by such an arbitrary crown. I’d imagine one could think that they simply can’t afford to drink the Wine of the Year anymore, even though it was initially priced at a ‘reasonable level.’ Then again, why did you buy the wine in the first place? Was it a good review, positive local buzz, vintage character, history of successful experiences w/ the producer, or simply because you tasted it and liked it? Situations such as these cause heavy internal scrutiny and can make sellers out of sippers. Is one ’05 Clos des Papes worth one ’90 Pichon Baron? If you had bought multiple bottles, do you drink a couple and pawn shop the rest?

Gold plated wines have a tendency to turn the staunchest drinkers into the most practical dealers. Is it about the wine, the prize or the common sense?


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