Auction Madness


Got a note this morning from an attorney chum who has wisely over the years converted a portion of his excessive salary to the acquisition of burgundy. He now sits atop a cellar of some 900 cases, peacefully ageing a few yards beneath his endangered liver. He tells me now the valuations of his stuff have gone so crazy it’s no joy at all to drink.

The commoditization of famous wines occurs for me as corollary to the general obsession with celebrity, which has led to such unfortunate matters as the OJ Simpson trial and the death of Lady Di. Wine is playing out its own tragedy – prices becoming to a greater and greater extent a function of notoriety and less and less a matter of intrinsic quality.

I conclude that we are born to tribalism, thus genetically ill-suited citizens of nations of millions. We seem merely to have room in our brains for some small number of real people. The media encourages us to perceive celebrities as the only real, actual, noteworthy people, while holding ourselves disconnected from the anonomous multitudes as if they were figments of our dreams.

Unfortunately in wine, celebrity inflates not egos but prices. My friend’s 1978 Roumier Bonnes Mares, which he scored in its youth for under $2,000 a case, is now on offer for $4,500 per BOTTLE. Brings to the act of consumption the same feeling you get when you gamble away your car. Bad for the digestion.

Two take-home messages. First, we’re all well aware that there are thousands of unknowns who can sing better than Britany and act rings around Brad. Likewise is the world full of undiscovered wine gems. Use your local wine merchant to help you find them, not the big paparazzi.

Second, tune out of this madness. By noting it, we support it. Our best defense is to ignore these idiots. If everybody did so, the insanity would cease. But of course you ain’t gonna live long enough for the world to become sane. Enjoy your wine and don’t read the auction reports. Like the best of the “discovered,” great burgundies can be counted on to remember who their real friends are.