Monday, March 28, 2011

On Prostitutes and Wine (Herdade Paco do Conde)

I have a friend who owns a pair of shoes that retail for $1000, he got them at an auction for a couple hundred, good deal I suppose. This same friend owns a designer backpack for which he paid $900. When I learned the price of his attire I nearly spat out a mouthful of $100 wine.

It seems insane to pay more than $100 on shoes or a backpack (personally I opt for the $100 shoe-backpack combo!) yet for some reason I am willing to shell out that kind of money for a good bottle of wine, a bottle that will last a few hours at most and might give me a decent buzz. The money someone is willing to spend on an item is often influenced by knowledge and appreciation of whatever it is they’re buying, or they are ignorant and have an excessively high credit limit.  Many people who buy wine have an upper limit of about $20 yet these same people are buying $3000 handbags. How is it that we decide what we are willing to pay top dollar for, how do we assign value and what does it all mean?

I can’t comment on many products in this world, I don’t know why a t-shirt can cost $75 or $5 but I am fairly well versed in the world of alcohol. I understand, to a certain degree, why a bottle of wine may cost $50 or more while there are some that are as low as $7. There are legitimate costs that go into producing an excellent wine that will drive the price sky high, a new barrique (a wooden barrel made out of oak that holds 225L) costs in the thousands of dollars and can only be used once for the full effect. Only selecting the best quality grapes takes an unbelievable amount of time and most people who work at picking grapes are rather fond of being paid for it. These are two factors that influence quality and cost, on the flip side a winemaker may simply add oak chips to a wine housed in a stainless steel container, and may rent a machine to quickly and efficiently shake the grapes off the vines. Neither of these practices are especially good for quality but they sure can bring down the cost of a bottle.

Candi circa 1890
Price of wine, like the price of so many things in life, is not solely dictated by the cost of creation, like any good lady of the night will tell you reputation and prestige go a long way in determining the asking price. Once in a while you find yourself asking was it really worth paying double for Candi over Trixie? Paying top dollar for “companionship” is much like paying for a fine Bordeaux when it really comes down to it you’re just paying a lot of money to get… well you know.

Throughout my adventures in alcohol I have determined a $50 bottle will be able deliver the most opulent flavours known to man, assuming the wine is properly selected. For the true lover of wine, beer, whisky, steak, gambling etc. there is no upper limit as far as cost is concerned. With $50 in your pocket you can have a wine that is probably equally well crafted as a $200 bottle, but they won’t taste the same! Curiosity will eventually take hold and one may find oneself a little late on this months rent…

Value is something we assign to things we are passionate about, for the truly passionate value is absolute. A $900 backpack is a good purchase because it is beautiful or durable or something, at the very least it will enjoyed for a hell of a lot longer than a $200 bottle of wine.* For the passionately curious no price is too high if there is something to be gained be it knowledge or enjoyment. Sometimes you get burned and all that has been learned is that a great amount of guilt can accompany a great amount of spending but that in itself can be a reward. It can be a costly endeavour discovering ones likes and dislikes. As much as I have disliked some of the more expensive bottles of wine I have bought I am satisfied for having learned something and taken the riskier path of exploring rather than sticking with the tried and true. Life is too short to buy the same bottle twice!


I should add that I have been writing this with red wine in mind. As far as white wine goes it almost never pays to buy a $100 bottle. For whatever reason it is easier to find mind blowing whites that are $30 or less than it is to find equally tantalizing reds for the same price.

Post disclaimer note on the wine of the night:

I was lucky tonight, while the wine I am drinking wasn’t a recommendation per say, I was mostly just spying on the wine one of my coworkers was buying, it is certainly delicious and well worth the $120… sorry $12 I spent on it.

Producer: Herdade
Wine: Paco do Conde
Region: Alentejano, Portugal
Year: 2007
Price: $12
Alc: 13.5% 

Notes: This is my favorite type of wine: well made and easy on the pocket book. Paco has good balance and tastes pretty damn good: plum, raspberry, tobacco, leather, spices and herbs oh my! Portugal you've done it again, if I were the type of person who bought wine a second time this one would be a staple of my diet, it is Very Nice!

*This actually kind of gives me pause, I still enjoy some of the best wine I have tried throughout my life, the memory of such wine is often enough to bring a smile to my face. Maybe a topic for a future post.

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