- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Wine prices have been really volatile for some time and a real topic of conversation among wine lovers. But, it looks like there is no end in sight. Consider the following:

The price of 2008 Mouton Rothschild seems to have soared from $200 to $1200 per bottle literally overnight. What would cause such an increase you ask? Good question. How about the announcement from the Chateau that a work by Chinese artist, Xu Lei, was selected for the label? To most of us this makes little difference and certainly nowhere worth a five-fold increase in the price. Besides I am told this is not the first time for a Chinese label.  However, this is yet another example of the insatiable (for now) appetite of the Chinese for things they deem to be of great value. Maybe someone should start a winery using only Chinese labels? There is a lot of surplus wine and a lot of grape prices have dropped sharply which indicates there should be lots of supply available in the future. But, what there seems to be a shortage of right now is not wine or grapes, but Chinese labels. If so, then better yet, how about commissioning Chinese artists to do the labels and get even higher prices? Maybe even doing “limited editions” or autographed bottles with the buyer’s name? Geez, the possibilities seem endless. And, a note to the California and Australia producers who are having difficulty selling high priced wines – maybe some of you should change your name and labels to correspond to this Chinese demand!  “Sum Yung Vine” anyone?

Outside of the Chinese bubble, things look a little different. Here in the U.S., as a sign of a slump in high end, high extract, high point scoring wines, something happened at  last Saturday’s Acker Merrall & Condit auction. And, it looks like some collectors have been left scratching their heads and some of the sellers probably reaching for the Pepto-Bismol bottle! You see, the auction may have  hit a real soft spot in finding buyers for a large supply of the so-called cult wines such as Harlan, Colgin, Screaming Eagle, Sine Qua Non, and others. It seems that most of these wines found no buyers at the estimated prices. And, those that did sell apparently were at or below the low estimates. Was it just the season or is there more to it?  We’ll see, but it is entirely possible that someone has stopped the music!

In Vino Veritas,

John Tilson