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February 12, 2004


So is a $500 bottle of wine really worth it? I know you're expecting me to give a waffling, spineless, lawyer-like answer like: it depends.....but for once I'll get right to the point and say unequivocally NO! Not only does the taste not justify the price, but the simple economics of winemaking makes the absurd prices paid for these bottles a testament to the folly of conspicuous consumption. Of course if you're buying this wine not to drink, BUT as an investment, then I say: have at it-since there will always be those with more money than sense (and taste), to make your investment more that worth its while. Just make sure you're not the poor sap who actually gets stuck with the product after all the middle-men and speculators have taken their cut. Then you'll find out-the hard way-- why the taste ain't worth the tariff .

Before I analyze the flavors behind these ridiculous prices, some simple economics are in order. Scarce commodities like gold or diamonds or truffles, will always command high prices because they're so tough to find and process. Certain wines like the rarest Burgundies, or eiswine command prices in the hundreds and thousands of dollars because so little is actually made. In eiswine's case, the individual grapes are hand picked, after freezing, on slopes up to sixty degrees under the most severest, and dangerous conditions imaginable.

When it comes to the elite Bordeaux Chateau, however, the product is hardly rare-of the five manufacturers: the smallest Mouton-Rothschild, still manages to pump out 140,000 cases-- or one million six hundred and eighty thousand bottles-- of the stuff-almost every year. Heck, I know hot sauce companies that don't make that much.....and none of them have the chutzpah to charge 500 bucks a bottle.

But the big Bordelais have cultivatated a cult of exclusivity for 200 years-that survives even if it is no longer deserved. Which brings us full circle to the matter of taste....flavor....enjoyment-you know-things that wine is supposed to be about. Is this wine good? Of course it is. Hell-IT COST 500 DOLLARS...... Actually it's great. Like anything else, you get what you pay for in wine (up to a point), and what you get when you sip Mouton, or Margaux is a big fleshy, complex mouthful of wine, that is subtle, fascinating and lasting on the palate. I could go on, but you'll have to e-mail me if you want my tasting notes. The only problem is there are dozens, if not hundreds of wines in the world that have those characteristics, at a fraction of the price. Leaving me to agree with the simple conclusion of that great Francophile A.J. Leibling: ''First growth Bordeaux is wonderful wine, IF you can get someone to buy it for you.''

This is John Curtas

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