The Sybarite, one of the Wine Bloggers has challenged us with a topic and the topic is “value.” The library we have in our house is adjacent to our front foyer and looks into our living room, and yes we have a living room that people actually use all of the time. In one of the corners of the library is a classic dictionary stand that I bought to keep my dictionary on, and I know that this is old fashioned with the internet, but I can remember years ago when I was in grade school my Mother buying weekly installments of this dictionary until we had all of the parts and then it was assembled. This is just to lead into the fact that I looked up the word “value” and the first definition was worth.
Worth that mysterious word that people use when they discover that you collect anything. “What is your wine collection in your cellar worth?” “What is your library worth?” I have to admit I cringe when the question of worth is ever brought up. I have many collecting interests, much to my Bride’s chagrin at times, but she puts up with me (most of the time). In the philatelic world I received some fame (?) or a least a footnote for a discovery I made of an item that had been kicked around for decades. It is a one of kind item, I should be able to retire, yes?; no, it is a very esoteric item from a very limited and collected area of the world, so I am not independently wealthy, the only way I am is because I have the company of my Bride and my family. In the collectable world, worth is only what another collector is willing to pay for something, regardless of what a catalogue may state.
My Bride is in the Insurance industry, but she has a niche market, so I can take her in the real world and not have to worry about her trying to sell everybody Life Insurance. When she was studying for one of her many designations, which she still has to update yearly there was a case that I remember about worth and I will paraphrase it. There was a man who had a fine and very expensive collection of cigars that he insured. Periodically he would contact his agent and report that one of the cigars that were insured burned, and the insurer paid the claim. When the entire case of cigars had mysteriously burned and the policy was finished, the insurance company took the man to court for arson and insurance fraud. So there is worth and “value” all over.
Years ago when I was first in the clothing industry, I remember a telling story of “value.” When the majority of clothing was made in this country, the price of a unit was determined in large part by the union, who had to determine how many hands touched a garment in the process, and then one had to factor in the cost of the fabric and findings. There was a clothing company that just shut the plant down, because the president of the firm feared that the market for men’s suits could not tolerate being over three hundred dollars retail, he would be amazed at what quality suits now sell for.
As for wines, there are many different factors that determine the “value” of a wine. The great Clarets of the Medoc have been selling “futures” for years that eventually determine the retail of the wine in the market place. I even had the chance once to buy three bottles of the Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973 which became famous, because it was the first year that they ever even acknowledge “The Classification of 1855 for the Medoc.” In the Burgundy region there is the famous auctions each year that determine the price of a vintage, just think of the DRC and the Hospice de Beaune. Then there is the cult wines that have a different thought process and sometimes grab a price out of thin air and since they have a waiting list for the product, the public be damned. Then there are the after market auctions that create new “highs” in the “value” of wine for wines that have really showed their quality.
All of this rambling leads me back to my dictionary stand for a second definition and that is “to rate highly.” This is my definition when it comes to wine. I tend to write about wines and the situation that I was in when I had the wine. It is the friends, the family that I “rate highly.” I have had the great opportunity to enjoy some wonderful wines through out the years, some great ones, some mediocre ones and some that I could barely drink a glass of. There is nothing as wonderful as enjoying a stellar bottle of wine with friends that can appreciate it, because the wine may be too over the top for a casual wine drinker. Another wonderful way to enjoy the moment is when you introduce someone that may not or claims that they do not enjoy wine and share a bottle of a well crafted bottle of pure delight and watch the faces as they realize what a bottle of wine can be. Then there are times when you are in the company of someone that has a cellar that makes yours look like it is from the corner market and you introduce them to a bottle of wine that is their favorite type of varietal, but they had not tried and seem how pleased they can be from something that may be “dear” to me, but chump change to them. My favorite moments though are when you are in the company of someone that enjoys wine, but they have had limited experience to what the wine world has to offer. This is a “rated highly” moment, when you share a bottle of a varietal that they claim that they like and watch them get bowled over with the majesty of a perfect wine that is beyond anything that they have encountered.
All of this meandering and being philosophical about wine is the true value of wine to me. It is the moment that has been etched into my memory; just like that dog-eared and man-handled old dictionary that my Mother ensured that I had so many years ago.