Over the years, as my wine collection has grown, I have at times been “taken in” or lost in the sea of “fine wine” marketing. This usually leads me to go “over” or “way over” my general wine budget to purchase different wines that have been labeled in general terms “fine wine” by someone of note. In my case I am talking about wine that costs from $50.00 to $350.00 per bottle. I want to make sure we don’t confuse the terms “fine wine” and “investment wine,” as the later term is an entirely different story.
What Are Fine Wines?
I took a little time to try and find a standard definition of the term “fine wine.” As I suspected I found many varying definitions. I have tried to piece together what I feel is a standard definition:
“The term ‘fine wines’ is generally a term reserved for collectable or exceptional wines that are produced from outstanding vintages from the best vineyards throughout the world. Although some of these wines may sell for thousands of dollars per bottle, the broader definition covers bottles typically selling in excess of $50.00 per bottle. These wines are also typically made of the highest quality grapes and the most acclaimed or famous wine labels.”
A shorter version of the definition is “a wine that is of higher quality or superior to most other wines.” Again we all should be more concerned about the quality of the wine not the price, as long it is within our budget. As an example I purchased a number of bottles of a 2011 Fattoria Galardi Terra di Lavoro, a Tuscan proprietary red wine rated at 96/100 points at a cost of $47.00 each. The wine tasted very good and I would consider this a fine wine.
My experience has been that once I go overboard and spend some big bucks on wine I hardly ever drink it for these reasons:
- I tell myself that I paid good money for this wine and I want to save it for a special occasion – these special occasions never seem to come or they just aren’t the right ones.
- Or I tell myself the wine was expensive and will grow in value (like stocks or bonds) and I better hold on to it. It is true that some high-end wines do grow in value. Typically these wines are French Bordeaux or other famous Old World wines. A limited amount of California (Napa Valley) wines also achieve greater value after release. A lot of those wines are sold at auctions and out of reach for us normal folks.
- Most of us may have a few bottles of wine we consider “fine wines.” The real question we have to ask ourselves is when will we actually drink these wines or sell them? Selling them is pretty much not an option. Unless you have a fair number of high-end (or relatively famous) wines there are very few opportunities to sell the wines. You really need to come up with a plan to drink them.
As I have mentioned in the past, the best things to do is to create a special occasion to drink the wines. Sooner rather than later is also a consideration on higher end wines because once you get past eight to ten years they may have reached their peak, losing their flavor profile. It is also very true that some wines will last years and years. To know which wines they are requires research, the ability to store them correctly and a little luck.
Are They Worth It?
It is a tough question to answer. At times it is a bit like asking a car buff if he wants a Ford Escort or a Porsche. If you are just a wine drinker then most likely not. However, if you are a wine enthusiast and generally interested in wines and your interest encourages you to explore more complex, richer, bolder and more satisfying wines then the answer is yes, they are worth it. But as always your desire, palate and check book have to be the determining factor.
Will Spending Twice as Much Get Me Wine that is Twice as Good?
Well yes… and no, maybe, sometimes. If you are buying a $20.00 bottle of wine over a $10.00 bottle it may well be (see my various posts on 90 point wines for under $20.00). Once you get above this level you want to be more cautious with your money. Certainly this applies when you get over $50.00 per bottle. However, once you get over that level you are usually guaranteed a wine made without compromise. This means higher quality grapes, vintners and winemakers looking for consistency in their wines.
How Do I Know What to Buy?
Buying higher-end wines is similar to buying any other more expensive or specialized products. When you do so, I believe you need to do your homework (research) and if possible get expert advice from a known individual. I’ll cover this further at the end of this article.
How Do You Know When To Drink Your Fine Wines?
Many fine wines are made to last and some require a few years to age in bottle. Again research is important. Most professional wine tasters like Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni and James Suckling provide suggested starting and “drink by” periods. You can also Google the wine and get a lot of information on any particular wine.
I have written several other blog articles that have some bearing on your selection of or purchasing fine wines. I suggest you review these posts:
The information I covered in those articles as well as today’s thoughts should help you form a theory on fine wines and whether you want to start purchasing them for your cellar collection. In conclusion, I also suggest you follow these guidelines in determining if a wine falls into the category of fine wines:
- Determine a budget and “try” and stick to it
- Make sure the winery has a record of making wines that are consistent in aging and professional scoring. Personally I select wines that are 95 points and higher. There are many wines that obtain this score and are in the $50 to $75 range. Some are under $50, but be careful of those
- Consistent reviews among experts (wine rating professionals) as to the quality of the wines
- Be able to store your fine wines in an acceptable controlled environment, which means a temperature of 65 degrees or less. The ideal temperature is 55 to 58 degrees
- Finally, only buy wines you enjoy and have a degree of experience in drinking. It would be a mistake in my opinion to spend a fair amount of money on a bottle of wine you haven’t had the experience of drinking in the past. Of course as your palate expands you should invest in all types of fine wines
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- May 9th – National Moscato Day
- May 21st – National Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 11th – National Rosé Wine Day
- Aug 1st – National Albariño Day
- Aug 18th – National Pinot Noir Day