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05.22.2014

Would You Rather Have a New BMW or a Bottle of Rosé?

This week a bottle of 1995 California Rosé sold at auction for a winning bid of $37,200.

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Go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor. It took me a while to recover from this news myself. As much as I would love to trumpet this sale as the ultimate proof that rosé has finally earned the respect it deserves as a world-class wine, the fact remains that this absurd price merely proves what we all knew already: namely that the fine wine auction market is ridiculously out of touch with reality, not to mention any truth about what wine really means.

The specific wine sold was a bottle of Sine Qua Non's Queen of Hearts, a limited quantity wine produced by oddball winemaker Manfred Krankl. Krankl's idiosyncratic wines are among the most sought-after California wines thanks to a combination of their scarcity and their critical acclaim by critics, in particular Robert M. Parker, Jr.

While Sine Qua Non wines trade at elevated prices on the auction market, sometimes up to more than $2000 per bottle, this particular bottle marks an astronomical apogee for the winery.

Does this sale really represent anything different than a bottle of DRC selling for tens of thousands of dollars? Not really. While this sale price represents an oddity, both for the fact that the wine hails from California, and that on top of that it is a rosé, the reason for the ridiculous price here is the same.

Whoever bought this bottle obviously didn't buy it to drink. It will sit on a shelf somewhere in someone's collection, likely next to a complete set of other Sine Qua Non wines. This bottle was the equivalent of the 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card.

But unlike baseball cards, which have no other value or meaning apart from being collectible, wine has another purpose. I've tasted a bottle of Krankl's rosé, which I recall not caring for very much. But irrespective of how I felt about that wine, or any other Sine Qua Non wines, they are made to be consumed, and achieve whatever potential and intent their maker had in that moment of consumption.

Treating wine as a trophy is sad.

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