Is it worth it?
I’ve been very lucky over the years to taste a lot of wines that are so far out of my price range that if I were contemplating buying them myself, I probably would have just bought a new sofa or bought groceries for a month rather than getting that particular bottle. So one of the things I am most often asked about my experiences of expensive wines, is, are they worth it?
It is an interesting question anyway, but an even more interesting question to ask of someone that would definitely not be able to taste these wines under normal circumstances, were it not for being in the trade. So I’m going to start by telling you what I think, and then I’ll go on to explain it.
My answer is simply ‘absolutely, yes’. Usually this is met with an inquisitive ‘…so, would you buy these wines then, if you could afford them?’
And to this, my answer would be ‘Absolutely not’.
If you are curious to find out why this makes perfect sense to me, read on… but I must warn you, it is a tale of extraordinary excess, of ridiculous conversations, and of the kind of passion for wine that I usually try to avoid for fear of nauseating our cynical readership.
I will begin with a recent conversation with a friend of mine who has a penchant for designer shoes. Now, I went through a phase of buying slightly posh shoes a few years ago but since hitting my mid 30s, terribly mundane things like bunions and arthritis have made it impossible for me to teeter around in stilettos for any longer than the dreaded walk from the taxi to the table in the restaurant, and if for any reason my journey directly from one to the other is compromised, well, I wouldn’t even like to think about the consequences. So I asked my friend, how can you justify spending that much on a pair of shoes that you hardly ever wear?
I should add that while my friend is considerably more graceful than me, she is unlikely to make it much further than my dash from the taxi to the table in these shoes. At a push, she might be able to stand by the bar for a few moments, as long as she had sufficient support. Anyway, as she lovingly packed her Marc Jacobs Mary Janes back in their dust bag and box, she said, with a sigh, ‘You don’t love shoes the way I do, you just wouldn’t get it.’
The thing is, I sort of do get it, more than most people get wine. There is a sort of permanence about the shoes, because she is very good to them and doesn’t wear them to places where they might get ruined, and because she only treats herself when something really REALLY good has happened financially, so that each pair really means something and reminds her of a great success that occasionally she gets take out of the box and stroll around on, all the while looking and feeling fabulous.
Next – I’ll take you back to the first time I was aware that I was drinking something really special. I hadn’t been in the wine trade for very long when I was fortunate enough to try a very rare and old Tokaji dessert wine that was over a hundred years old. Someone else had dropped out of a tasting and I got to attend in their place at the last minute. It was a bit of a blur and I remember thinking as that sweet nectar passed my lips ‘I think I am probably drinking history’, while our host informed us that it was one of only a handful of bottles of this particular vintage remaining in the world. I’m ashamed to say, such was my inexperience, that I don’t even know what vintage it was.
Some months later and much wiser, I would be lucky enough to try Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1997 at a Claret tasting. I was a bit better prepared for the experience and will savour that lovely wine forever. Oddly enough, although it was by far the most expensive wine of the evening, it wasn’t my favourite on that particular night. But it was a rare treat to try it, and the tasting notes I made that night will be with me forever.
And as the years went by, the good stuff just kept on coming. I was a very lucky girl, to say the least.
So, back to the question. That bottle of Lafite was worth a couple of hundred pounds even then, and the little 50cl bottle of Tokaji was certainly worth several thousand, if it could even have been sourced at auction; I doubt it.
Is it worth it?
Of course it is. If you can afford it, and you get sufficient enjoyment out of drinking it to justify its cost, then it is absolutely 100% worth every penny to the person that purchases it. And the fact that it is finite, that it will be gone in the morning, makes it, for me, even more special than my friend’s shoes, you can’t just pull it out of its dust bag twice a year and wear it to a restaurant. It lives on in your memory and each time you think about it, it is even more special as it was when you actually tasted it.
So, would you buy it?
Of course not. I need a new boiler. My car has been making a worrying sound, that I have been drowning out by turning the radio up, for over a year. I’ve been putting off having children so I can save up for an iPad. I recently tossed a coin and had to choose between my RAC membership and continuing to have Sky TV. And when the coin toss didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I cancelled my RAC membership anyway, despite the worrying sound my car has been making. Do I sound like someone that can afford to buy Chateau Lafite?
So, would you buy it, if you could afford it?
Why would I? That’s why I’m in the wine trade.