Let’s hope Dave Brice and Roland Peens from the brave Wine Cellar in Observatory managed to off-load the fabulous but pricey stockpile from Cornel Spies last year as prognostications for 2010 do not look great. The first prediction from John Mariani writing on the Bloomberg site (admittedly after the global crash, financial advisers have a reliability rating far worse than the oracle at Delphi) for Mondovino 2010 is for continued price weakness: “prices will continue to drop across the board, from the priciest of Bordeaux and Burgundy to cult California wines that were once available only by subscription.”
London auction seems to be the place to snap up old clarets judging by the prices Bonhams achieved last year for a stash of old Bordeaux hidden from invading Germans on the Channel Island of Guernsey. The great leveler www.wine-searcher.com reveals the cheapest price on the planet for Château Margaux 1929 to be £1299 a bottle while it was knocked down by Bonhams for £91. Ausone ’28 went for £72 against a searcher minimum of £578 and Mouton ’28 changed hands for £103 as opposed to £1299. Latour ’26 was £217 versus £1098 and Yquem ’34 less than half price at £500 against wine-searcher’s minimum of £1226.
The wines had been well-stored, in the “middle cellar” (“a windowless room between its street-level shop and a dockside loading area”) of Bucktrout & Co. Although it’s a wonder the Germans conquered the whole of Europe given that they missed so much hidden fine wine if you believe all the reminiscences of the tour guides in Champagne/Bordeaux/take your pick.
The inventory reads like the index of Neil Beckett’s 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die (Cassell, 2008). Heck Bonhams were even discounting the anorak’s Holy Grail: Cheval Blanc ’47 for £450, down from £978.
Another one of John’s scary predictions of interest to South Africans is “Champagne will be in serious trouble. It’s not just that prices have gotten way out of whack, with too many selling above $100 a bottle, but other sparkling-wine producers have been canny about getting their bubblies well-positioned, well-priced and well-reviewed. Champagne is reducing output and holding back product already bottled to get some balance, but it’s going to be a struggle to win revelers back from Italian prosecco, Californian sparklers and Spanish cavas. There are just too many Champagne labels out there.” And he didn’t even consider SA Cap Classiques!
Although quite why SA Champagne prices remain so stubbornly high is a mystery of the same magnitude of the present location of Tiger Woods. A friend imported 300 bottles for own consumption last month. The stock left Ay on 11 December and we sank a few bottles in Cape Town on New Year’s Eve and the shipment was by sea to minimize our carbon footprints. Is this some kind of record? OK, so my host did fib a touch and claim he had Julius Malema coming to dinner to hurry it out of the Department of Agriculture at record speed, but the total price paid was a small fraction of that required by local retailers and distributors engaged in a war of nerves with SA consumers as to who can hold their breaths the longest, consumers or the retailers’ bank managers. My money is on consumers.