Yes, I Get It. But is it really Worth It?
By: George Balling
It is a line we are hearing more frequently right now, “Yes I get it. But is it really worth it?” It is likely a combination of the Spring Release from many wineries and “library offerings” from many wineries in Northern California. Release of new vintage wines are always grouped in the spring and again in the fall, that is just the way it is done. This year during spring release we are seeing many wineries offering older vintage wines from their winery libraries, a response to not having any wine from the 2020 vintage due to the widespread and devastating fires that wiped out virtually the entire wine grape crop in Northern California.
The question relates directly to the pricing of the best wines from Northern California, which by most any standard are spendy. Some are more spendy than others and coupled with that we all have our budgetary “sweet spot” we like to drink at causes many wonder if the prices charged for some of these bottles is in fact worth it. Another version of the question we get as wine professionals, is “Can you tell the difference?” Here is our take on the full subject.
Whether you hear the prices of the best of the best discussed among wine collectors, or if you see them quoted in the wine press, or see them on the shelf here at the shop we are all aware of the bottles that carry price tags in the multiple hundreds or even thousands of dollars. To take the second question first, can you tell the difference. On those rare occasions during my wine consuming years, I can tell you with certainty, yes you can tell the difference. Maybe not from one expensive bottle to the next bottle that all have seriously big price tags, but when tasting those that sell at really big numbers versus our every day drinking wines, you bet we can tell the difference.
The prices for wines like these are driven by two factors, simple supply and demand and the care and time that goes into producing them. That is what allows each of us to tell the difference between the big-time bottles and our everyday go to. The grapes are cared for more gently during the growing season. At harvest only the perfect bundles of grapes are selected. The cooperage used in ageing is more expensive and meets exacting standards. The wines are aged longer typically both in barrel and bottle. All of these factors that add to the cost are what you taste in the best of the best wines.
The first question of whether any one of these bottles is worth it takes a bit more nuance to answer. So many things go into our perception of a bottle of wine, and its value to us. The occasion when we are consuming it, who we are sharing it with, and what food it is paired with, all contribute to our feeling of satisfaction with wine of this caliber.
On the occasion I have had them, I have to say everyone of them was absolutely worth it. Meo Camuzet Nuits St. Georges, Scarecrow, Joseph Phelps Insignia, Shafer Hillside Select, Pride Mountain anything, Gaja and more each time I have been fortunate enough to have some, have been fabulous and yes worth it. For me though each time I have been able drink at this level it involved more than just the wine, all of them were enjoyed with people who are very special to me, and most times they were also enjoyed on a very special occasion. Isn’t that the point though of drinking a bottle of wine that is worth that kind of money?
Here is one final piece of advice if you have one or more very special bottles at home in your collection. Drink them. Do so sooner rather than later. There has been much written by smart people that write about these types of things, that if you have a special article of clothing, or a special bottle of wine or other special things and you put off using them until just the right occasion you will likely never get the chance to enjoy them. When it comes to wine that would be the most tragic thing of all. So, figure out a time and someone special to share it with pull the cork and get after it.