Text Size:-+

The Fine Wine Bubble of the Early 21st Century

While in most media circles, the larger global economic meltdown consumes the lion's share of attention, the wine world is experiencing its own nasty correction. Many top wineries, especially those with bottle prices over $80 find themselves struggling to sell their wines as the usual outlets are simply refusing purchases that they used to beg for.

Vegas restaurants, long-standing bastions of "I don't care what it costs as long as it sounds expensive" buying habits, are dumping their allocations of high-end wines like ballast water from an unstable ship. Cult wineries with mailing lists that had waiting lists thousands of members long are now struggling to find people to buy their wines, especially if they make more than a few thousand cases.

But more than anything else, the largest bellwether of a true collapse in the fine wine market are the high end Bordeaux wines, and the companies that have pimped them along a skyrocketing trajectory of pricing whose incline was no less irresponsible and unsustainable as any of the credit-default-swaps that brought down the global economy.

My fellow blogger Keith Levenberg wrote a lovely piece about this phenomenon that I highly recommend reading.

The phenomenon is certainly not restricted to Napa and Bordeaux, however. There are plenty of other wine regions that have massively over-invested based on the impossible hope that wine prices and demand would continue to soar at the top end of the market.

It's sad to see the wine industry suffer at all, but it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing to weed out a lot of chaff from the marketplace, and bring some of the outrageous prices (and pretensions) back down to earth.

Thanks to Jack at Fork & Bottle for the tip on Keith's post.

Comments (42)

dave wrote:
05.07.09 at 2:56 AM

The problem with a lot of these wineries comes from the fact that they are only marketing their wine to the elite, wealthy, and few, who consider themselves wine critics. The issue with such a notion derives from the fact that some people believe that wine should be for these people only. In doing this, they inflate their price above the "fair value" and like you said, they become over-bloated, just like mortgages.

A winery should just focus on making the best possible wine, and let the market work the price out for its self. If wineries were really smart, they would make just a couple elite level wines and the rest should be focused on the average palate. Crisp, smooth, and delicious.......

These are the customers that will decide if a winery is successful, not a wine critic. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is increased sales.

Bob R. wrote:
05.07.09 at 5:43 AM

Excellent post, and thanks for the link to Keith's posting.

Randy Watson wrote:
05.07.09 at 8:22 AM

Great post and link!


ned hoey wrote:
05.07.09 at 11:05 AM

Last night, paging through the most recent WA and Burghound editions, I noticed the phrase "luxury cuvee" pop up repeatedly. It's not new, and it's been in use for a while, but it suddenly struck me. What does that mean, really? Certainly higher cost but for what exactly? Higher quality, whatever that means, or greater potential age ability? More oak? Darker color? More Power? Are those attributes luxurious? Is this where spoof comes from? Something seemed just wrong about the concept of a "luxury cuvee" as an intentional product.

I think we've reached the logical endpoint of the thrust of wine marketing of the past 50 years.
Aspirational, lifestyle oriented, exclusive, luxury, these notions have been the essence of it and it produced an industry built around "creating" these products. I see it as a very American phenomenon and like so many other American cultural phenomenons, unsustainable.

Unfortunately wine as a beverage to enhance a meal got supplanted by wine as a means to enhance one's image not only to others but to one's self. This completely distorted the industry.
How many people see that, I don't know, but maybe now wine has a chance to be a part of our
food culture first and as a luxury item second.

Sam Goth wrote:
05.07.09 at 5:51 PM

I hope you're right Ned-maybe wine will be seen as mundane as 2x4s someday, essential, background, and not expensive.

Trisha wrote:
05.07.09 at 9:51 PM

You make a good point... I have to say that there have been a good many people who have felt sort of like rock stars, being right there with these luxury, ultra-premium wines (and winemakers) that are "TO DIE FOR!"

I do understand what you mean. I have a sister and brother-in- law who drink from a 5 gallon box of wine.... heck, they like it, and that's what counts, I suppose....aside from the health ramifications that could bring.

The thing of it is, and I am not talking about Bio, but I do know a thing or two about organic....AND about making awesome wines. I just can't bring myself to drink the lower priced brands....I like the $50-$100 bottles, but can't afford them any longer, so, I don't drink anything!

I know that, the high end producer is paying significantly higher prices to produce his wine. The grapes for many of the wine varietals are grown on hillside or mountain vineyards, which cost a fortune to farm...imagine being the guy that works the vineyard on the tractor at 1,200 feet..... I don't know about you, but I would surely expect a steep increase in pay for risking my life and for being one heck of a tractor driver. For the fruit grown at cooler climate vineyards planted in lower elevations, the very talented and savvy winemaker chooses those vineyards because of the superior character and flavor profiles a certain variety, let's say Viognier, will display. Let's take note of the fact that, Viognier has a tendancy to grow like weeds on the vine, producing so many bunches of grapes that the vine has to support the growth of all of them; the grapes lose the intensity that people love in Viognier. The fragrant, exotic aromas and flavors are what a superior winemaker wants, and knows how to manipulate from high quality fruit. I know many times the winemaker has to ask the grower to drop half of the crop in order to achieve a voluptuous Viognier. The grower gets paid for a full crop.....the winery pays for the grapes cut off the vine long before harvest. You also need to consider that the winemaker pays very close attention to the barrels he purchases. The lower priced, or cheap, good deals, affect the quality of the wine. A couple of years ago I remember hearing that $1200 for a high quality 60 gallon French oak barrel (which makes only five cases of wine) was not uncommon. When a winemaker has a passion to make great wines, believe me, he is paying top dollar every step of the way. Let's not leave out the wine bottle and label....beautiful - you don't skimp on price...cork, glass and paper quality.

And, why don't you try out one of those winemaker dinners or food pairings at the high end winery.....? I swear by the fact that not only does wine enhance the wonderful flavors of great foods, the food truly does make the wine taste better too! As long as you have someone doing the menu who knows what they are doing - I've seen a few disasters in my day:>))

In no way am I putting anyone down, I just want you to think about it.....because although I have never been around biodynamically farmed vineyards, I have been around organic....and it is so true, that when the vine is healthier, the fruit it produces tastes better. Try one of those ultra-premium/luxury wines - the proof is in the pudding!

hey there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up anything new from right here.
I did however expertise several technical issues using this website, since I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could
get it to load properly. I had been wondering
if your web hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading
instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your
high quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.
Well I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more
of your respective interesting content. Make sure you update this again very soon.

10.18.14 at 8:04 AM

Hello, I believe your site might be having internet
browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks
fine however, if opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues.
I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that,
wonderful blog!

10.18.14 at 9:16 AM

I'm curious to find out what blog system you have been utilizing?
I'm having some small security problems with my latest site and
I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have
any recommendations?

10.18.14 at 3:01 PM

One of the latest cars on the market, the Buick Encore is named rightly considering the appreciation that
it has been receiving from potential buyers. In That Respect's the online
football manager FA's representative and is both leisurely to observe a
demonstrate. On dry pavement, one-hundred per cent of the power goes to the front wheels, but it
can send all the power to the rear wheels if necessary.

10.18.14 at 5:23 PM

Undeniably imagine that which you said. Your favourite justification appeared to be at
the web the simplest thing to take into account of.

I say to you, I certainly get annoyed whilst other people
think about worries that they plainly do not understand about.

You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest
and defined out the entire thing without having side effect , folks could
take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

10.18.14 at 9:45 PM

I l?ke the valuable inform?tion you provide ?n your articles.
I'll bookmark your blog and check ?gain her? regularly.
? am qu?te sure I will learn plenty ?f new
stuff right ?ere! ?est of luck f?r the next!

10.19.14 at 1:02 AM

Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is
an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to
read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.
I'll definitely comeback.

10.19.14 at 1:03 AM

Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be ok.
I'm undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new

Tammara wrote:
10.19.14 at 1:07 AM

And just like every cgild since time began,
I knew exactly what that look meant: I was dead. The
guest has to buy the 'rujak ' with a piece of roof tile prepared by the host.
Check your car carefully before you pull away for dings, leaks, or
other damage.

10.19.14 at 2:16 AM

The Google Nexus S calls upon both EDGE & GPRS to stay connected to the appropriate cellular networks on
the move. An example of an operating system everyone can relate to is
Microsoft Windows. Because of the level of technology included within the handset, the popularity of the Google Nexus S looks assured.

10.19.14 at 2:38 AM

Thank you for some other magnificent article. The place
else may anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect means
of writing? I've a presentation next week, and I'm at the search for such info.

10.19.14 at 7:22 AM

There are all types and sizes of messes.

Horacio wrote:
10.19.14 at 2:11 PM

I think that is among the most vital information for me. And i'm satisfied
reading your article. But wanna observation on some
general issues, The website style is wonderful, tthe articles
iss in reality nice : D. Excellent process,

10.19.14 at 2:30 PM

Hi I am so excited I fouind your blog page, I really found you by error, while I was looking on Digg for something else, Regardless
I amm here now and would just like too say thank you for a tremendous post and a all round
entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time too ggo through it aall at thee minute
but I have saved it annd also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will
be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the great jo.

m88th wrote:
10.19.14 at 3:21 PM

I every time spent my half an hour to rwad this weblog's content
everyday along with a mug of coffee.

Hi there, all the time i used to check weblog posts here in the
early hours in the dawn, since i love to learn more and more.

10.19.14 at 5:56 PM

For those involved in UFC and competitive fight organizations, mixed martial arts are a requirement.
You will learn more techniques and learn to apply them in new ways and this
you will want to practice them constantly. The kids
can be given a chance to mix and customize the menu for customers.

10.19.14 at 6:15 PM

This post is really a fastidious one it helps new the web users, who are wishing for blogging.

10.19.14 at 7:57 PM

"The Magic of Making Up" provides you with a thorough step-by-step technique to fix your
broken relationship. It doesn't just inform you what to try and
do; it holds your hand and helps you get through it.

That could sound crazy since after all this is just a book - but
it's the truth. There may be no other program on-line or perhaps
in bookstores that make it easier to fix your connection with your ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend) that's remotely near to "The Magic of Making Up".

homepage wrote:
10.19.14 at 8:37 PM

I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog's articles daily along with a cup of coffee.

10.19.14 at 9:30 PM

I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
I do not know who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;) Cheers!

10.19.14 at 11:01 PM

I like what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and reporting!
Keep up the amazing works guys I've incorporated you guys
to blogroll.

10.19.14 at 11:21 PM

Great blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
I'd really like to be a part of online community where
I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same
interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Appreciate it!

10.20.14 at 2:43 AM

This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!!
Finally I have found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!

10.20.14 at 3:04 AM

Woah! I'm really digging the template/theme of this site.

It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's difficult to get that "perfect balance" between usability and appearance.
I must say you've done a fantastic job wiith this.

Also, the blog loads very quick for me on Opera.
Excellent Blog!

10.20.14 at 3:39 AM

What's up, yes this paragraph is genuinely nice and I
have learned loot of things frtom it on the topic of
blogging. thanks.

Jerrold wrote:
10.20.14 at 3:41 AM

hey there and thank you for your information – I've certainly picked up anything new from
right here. I did however expertise some technical issues using
this web site, as I experienced to reload the web
site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load correctly.
I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK? Not that I'm
complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement
in google and can damage your high-quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords.
Anyway I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content.
Make sure you update this again soon.

10.20.14 at 4:45 AM

excellent publish, very informative. I'm wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don't
understand this. You must continue your writing. I'm confident,
you've a great readers' base already!

10.20.14 at 2:27 PM

The uncomplicated solution that appears to make most sense is that a
stool is created for a single man or woman, a bench for two or
a lot more.

10.20.14 at 2:40 PM

I all the time emailed this web site post page to all my contacts, since if
like to read it after that my links will too.

10.20.14 at 6:54 PM

If the QQQ drops, then the next level of support will be at 83.
If you own a smaller model ATV there's no
sense getting an overly large blade. I rewired the plow and for the
most part, it worked.

Alfred wrote:
10.20.14 at 10:54 PM

In 2008, GSA received an anonymous email from a former employee at GSA's Federal Acquisition Services branch in New York City.
The GSA supplies products and communications for U. Is it time to upgrade from MS Office 2003 (or 'XP') to 2007.

10.21.14 at 1:21 AM

Goodd bog you have here.. It's hard to find
high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuuals like you!
Take care!!

sexcam wrote:
10.21.14 at 5:54 AM

Keep on writing, great job!

10.21.14 at 8:35 AM

Therefore, when you're ready to upgrade the security of your home look at
a few of these locksmith tricks for securing your home from
the inside out. It is also important to choose locksmiths who're well known within the industry of locksmith.
So if you're looking for everyone the automobile industry or the
finance sector, this might be the one for you.

10.21.14 at 11:06 AM

I'm really enjoying the theme/design of your site.

Do yyou ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?
A small number of my blog audience have complained about my blog not working correctly
in Explorrer but loolks great in Chrome. Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast Vinography Images: Shaggy Companions 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 26, Healdsburg

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.