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03.03.2009

Drink What You've Got: Wine in Troubled Times

winecellar.jpgThe current recession offers a blessing in disguise for many wine lovers. Even those whose decreased purchasing power means they can't buy wine like they used to.

For many wine lovers, the instinct to collect is strong. Beyond the dopamine rush of finding new wines to own, which may not be that far removed from the buzz of the compulsive gambler, the benefit of aging wines adds an allure to socking away bottles that can be hard to resist, especially if you have the financial means to do so.

One of the great pleasures of being a wine lover comes from the luxury of getting to know wine over time. But it's all too easy, as so many auction houses gleefully appreciate, to not find the time to actually enjoy the fruits of a wine purchasing habit.

Buying wine and not drinking it is a crime nearly as severe as buying a Ferrari and not driving it or owning a great record collection and not listening to it. Yet so many wine lovers, even those who don't consider themselves to be "collectors" can quite easily fall into the trap of finding the acquisition of wine easier to justify than its consumption.

But in these troubled times, I'm finding it much easier to avoid buying more bottles, and I'm enjoying the challenge of mining my own cellar, even though my purchasing habit was sparse, and my cellar quite modest.

While serious collectors, especially those who buy for investment purposes, will no doubt be using the current economic crisis as a serious buying opportunity, I hope many others are using it as an excuse to reacquaint themselves with past purchases. Take a pause and pull out a bottle or two, and remind yourself of why you bought them in the first place.

Comments (13)

Chris Lopez wrote:
03.04.09 at 1:12 AM

I was just thinking about this exact concept tonight (as I eagerly await for the Cellartracker server migration to be complete). As I missed 'Open That Bottle Night,' perhaps I'll have to find something that I have been tucking away for tomorrow. I move into a new place tomorrow and it will be a perfect time to celebrate!

Jack wrote:
03.04.09 at 4:50 AM

Well written I must say!The current situation does make you think even more before you purchase ! But I'll always remain a Bottlenotes loyalist ! :)

Randy Watson wrote:
03.04.09 at 5:54 AM

You mention taking a pause to pull out a bottle or two to remind you why you bought it in the first place... I am just curious as to which bottle or two would you pull out of your collection?

Jake wrote:
03.04.09 at 7:55 AM

For many collectors, the economy has been a mixed blessing. We can no longer afford many of the offerings, and may even wonder if they are forever out of reach.
On the other hand we can take great comfort in the wines we do have. I am now increasingly mindful of serving and enjoying wine, especially ones I can no longer afford at release. And I think perhaps I am drinking some of the best wine of my life...

Eric Lecours wrote:
03.04.09 at 9:20 AM

The purchases of most collectors I know dropped in half in 2008 versus 2007 and I imagine the same will hold true in 2009 versus 2008. Of course, it depends on consumption but if you've got 2000+ bottles of wine, you're not going to go thirsty any time soon.

My hope is that pricing will get more reasonable. The price increases of premium wine far outpaced inflation over the past 10 years. I think the this drop demand is great for the industry. Things got out of hand.

Alder wrote:
03.04.09 at 9:23 AM

Randy, thanks for the comments. It's not a theoretical question. I'm drinking all sorts of stuff from my cellar (doesn't seem large enough to call a collection) every week. This week it was an early 80's German Riesling, an early 90's California Chardonnay, and a mid 90's California Pinot. A couple of weeks ago it was a late 80's White Rioja.

Alder

Dylan wrote:
03.05.09 at 5:28 PM

Alder, this post sounds like it's inspired from open that bottle night.

Randy Watson wrote:
03.05.09 at 6:02 PM

Every night should be open that bottle night! :)

Alvin Lewis wrote:
03.07.09 at 11:02 AM

Your post reminded me that one of the great drivers for the ancient development of wine was to preserve grapes to provide sustenance in bad times. Current conditions show that this purpose can still be fulfilled by the fermented grape juice in our wine cellars. Although, being a Manhattanite, you would have to call mine a wine closet.
This has put me in the mind to pull the cork on that early 1990ís Dr. Frankís Riesling that Iíve been saving forever and pair it with some other rainy day foods. How about an Adirondack smoked ham, sauerkraut, and a side of roasted tubers. For desert some local cheeses and a glass of Warwick Winery Pear Eau de vie. This is all starting make me feel prosperous again, thanks.

mike wrote:
03.07.09 at 2:42 PM

Alder

Oh so true. I've dropped off so many mailing lists as I think about the absurdity of pricing, etc. We've been pulling out great old bottles over and over during the past 6-9 months and it has been so much fun. In these tough times it is certainly fun to open a 94 95 96 97 and enjoy the wine, but also think back on simpler easier times. We'll get through this tough stretch too but the great old bottles certainly make it a bit easier!

Don Stone wrote:
03.08.09 at 11:15 PM

Alder, you described me to a 'T'... An obsessive/compulsive "I like to buy wine" guy! I shouldn't tell you about my 75 bottles that I brought back from Strasbourg and 100+ from a weekend in Alba, Piedmont. Ruh-roh... I'm gonna hunker down and work my way through a few bottles this year, based on your wake up call and suggestion... Great article, btw. Thanks, Don Ston

Garrett wrote:
03.10.09 at 10:09 AM

I'll be honest. Bev-mo 5 cent sale to collect. Really, I guess it sounds so low brow or low class, but as a graduate student on a very tight budget I have to be smart about my purchases. Still, I find some really great wines there and can pick them up for the collection. Furthermore, they do tastings on Saturdays of their 5 cent sale wines. I know some may pass it off as simply plonk, but every once in a while you find a real gem that way.

Alder wrote:
03.10.09 at 10:21 AM

Garrett,

Ain't no shame in that, man! The important thing is that you have wine to drink that you like. Everything after that is gravy.

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