Wednesday, January 23, 2008

So Far, I Stink at the Wine Splurge

Just like you, I have my limits on what I'll spend on a bottle of wine. When I'm buying a case of wine for everyday drinking purposes, the average cost per bottle is about $15. And I've gotten really good at buying wine at this price point - BrooklynLady and I drink really good wine on an everyday basis.

My mistakes have been at the splurge price point, which for me is wine over $50. Why $50? Remember, I'm not in the wine business and I get no discounts anywhere other than the typical 10% mixed case discount. My spending money essentially all goes towards wine, and I'm not P Diddy, so I try to think very carefully before spending $50 on a bottle. Try, is the active word here, because as you'll see, my splurges really don't make sense half the time, given my drinking preferences.

I have 225 bottles in my "cellar," which is comprised of my wine fridge and some space in Deetrane's basement cellar, and 30 of them cost at least $50. That's about 13% of my cellar that I would classify as a splurge. I wish I could tell you that these and the other splurges that have since passed through my body and back into the earth, have all been wise purchases. As you might guess, I'm writing this because when I look through the list I feel like a complete idiot. How could I have spent that kind of bread on some of these wines?!?

Following is a list of Brooklynguy's splurge wines from the past two years or so, some in the cellar, some just a memory, in order of price:

2002 Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers, $50, 2 bottles.
2005 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Morey St Denis 1er Cru Les Faconnieres, $50, 3 bottles. These should have been closer to $70 each, but this was one of Deetrane's gray market schemes.
2002 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux, $51, 2 bottles. Good buy.
2005 Château LaGrange, $52, 2 bottles. Do I even drink Bordeaux?
2005 Château Monbousquet, $53, 2 bottles. Oiy vey.
NV Lallement Reserve Champagne, $53, 2 bottles. Nice!
2005 Simon Bize Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Forneaux, $55, 3 bottles. I'd do it all over again!
2001 Confuron-Contetidot Nuits St George 1er Cru, $62. Way too much money, dumb.
2000 Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, $64. Eh...
2004 Roumier Chambolle-Musigny, $65. For God's sake Jim, this is just a country wine! (apologies to Star Trek fans everywhere)
2004 Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny, $65. I sense a pattern developing.
2005 Château Rieussec, $65 (750 ml). Do I even like Sauternes?
2005 Château Smith Haut Lafite, $66, 2 bottles. Thank goodness I got 2 bottles. Thank goodness.
2004 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques, $72. I feel great about this one. Sylvie Esmonin rocks and this should be awesome in 6 years.
2002 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Red Hills Estate, Oregon. $75. I feel like a real putz about this one, actually.
2005 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, $75, 2 bottles. Hard to argue, I guess.
Château Sociando-Mallet, $78. I bought this home for our first anniversary.
NV Billiot Champagne Cuv
ée Laeticia, $81. New years wine 07-08.
Château Calon-Segur, $82. Could this one actually be worth the money? Maybe so.
Château Pontet-Canet, $87, 2 bottles. Does anyone have a polo mallet?
1997 Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses, $105. It was beautiful. Worth every penny.
2004 Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses, $200. I had a REALLY good month playing poker, that's all I can tell you about this one. Will it be worth the $$$? Let you know in 8-12 years. But honestly, I'll be shocked if it is.

That's like $750 worth of 2005 Bordeaux that I would love credited to my account. And a few ill-advised Burgundy purchases - why spend so much on village wine, even if the producer is Roumier or Mugnier? I guess I wanted to taste their wine and this was the chance - off vintage village wine. Please feel free to weigh in with your reactions to this absurdity.

So play this game with me: imagine that I have $400 to spend on luxury wine. I'm not willing to come home with fewer than 4 bottles. What should I splurge on now? Great Burgs or other things that I drink and love right now, or maybe something kind of new to me, like a Cornas, as Steve L. suggests.

What is your wine splurge?


apcrush said...

I like your writing style, good information. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Smith Haut Lafite, so good from what I remember (first and last bottle was back in 1988, probably vintage 86 or 85 for $15!) still remember it! SHL allows a lesser known wine, Chateau Cantelys, to be produced in their cellars. The grapes are from vineyards adjoining SHL, and it's a great Bordeaux value if you can find it stateside. It was outstanding in 2000, truly outstanding, and only $20. Call it baby SHL.

Regarding your game, I'd suggest giving up splurges altogether and age twice as much wine at your everyday level! The dividends of aging are worth the price of patience in my opinion. Vive le vin!

peter said...

I don't know; I think I'd get Rayas. CDP is my go-to region for Burgundian ageability for way less money.

As for your list, hang on to the Calon-Segur and the Sauternes for 20 years and you'll be glad you bought them. Calon is a bitch and needs forever.

Also, you should be doing better than 10%; Slope Cellars does 15% if I'm not mistaken, and certain sellers have been known to do even better, under the right circumstances... tell Patty I said hi.

And check out what those 05 Bordeaux are worth on Wine Commune; they may well go up enough in the near future to be able to replace themselves with Burgundy.

RougeAndBlanc said...

May I suggest you to try a few of 2005 first growth German Pinots. I heard they are beautiful and I am sure Lyle can get you some.

Lyle Fass said...

Great Burg producers lesser wines in great vintages
Great Burg producers better wines in lesser vintages
2002 First Growth Bordeaux (esp Haut Brion)
German Riesling obviously (Auslese, GK Auslese etc.)
We'll chat about Spatburgunder
Clos Rougeard is great
Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

just off the top of my head

Deetrane said...

Funny that Lyle mentionesMascarello Monprivato. Neil, that's the bottle that I argued down to $60 for a 1997 that time we drove to New York Wine Warehouse ( That's my splurge. Or was it the mixed case of 2003 Haut Brion, Lafite, Mouton and Margaux that Weav and I just took delivery of. I don't consider that a splurge as much as my first ever investment purchase.

Anonymous said...

Gee, it's neat to see Allemand and Raveneau on Lyle's list because I think I mentioned those to you, also. I think the Raveneau is a safe bet, but you'd need to know you really like great Syrah to go for the Cornas. (Check out Eric Texier's recent post on Allemand on Wine Therapy.) On the other hand, I'd be surprised if a single bottle of '02 Haut Brion would leave you any change from your $400.

And by the way, your post is hilarious in the "oh brother, I feel his pain" sort of way. I have dozens of cases stacked up in a storage locker and sometimes I stand there staring at it all, asking myself "what are the odds I would buy that wine right there again today if I had the chance?" Way too often the answer is "I doubt it." Maybe we'll both be surprised and really like it all!

Sometimes imagining what to buy is way better than actually buying or drinking it.

Brooklynguy said...

apcrush - much appreciated, thanks to you.

hey paul - so smith HL not bad then, that's good to know. as to your suggestion about cellaring strategy, I'm already aging twice as much as i meant to. that;s the problem with buying a wine fridge - they automatically become too small in about 1 year.

hey peter - i hear good things about calon too, so i'll keep that one. not so sure where i come down on cdp yet. i have yet to have that really convincing bottle, and if i need to go buck wild on the ducats to get it then its probably not for me. but i'll keep an open mind. and slope cellars might do 15 but i haven't been buying cases from them because i find them to be quite overpriced. like prospect wines, their neighbor, they don't ahve the buying power to bring the bottle prices down.

andrew - i will definitely ask lyle.

and lyle - thanks for the suggestions, i like it. raveneau is a certainty in my future. seems like i managed to get two lesser burgs from great producers, but in a lesser vintage. yer gonna recommend bordeaux after what happened to you and what you did today?!?

hey deetrane - good to see you round these parts. i remember that day very clearly. you "lost" R's lamby but really it was in your coat pocket. and i remember that negotiating session you had with the guy. over a great splurge wine too - nice. i expect a sip when you open it. when will that be, anyway?

Wicker Parker said...

Knowing your taste, Brooklynguy, wouldn't you consider splurging on Barolo and German Riesling as well as Burgundy and top Loire?

Ah, but I project!

I'm reluctant to spend more than $30 and have very rarely shelled out more than $50. But if I was forced to spend $400 on splurge-only wines, and if I lived in NY, I'd surely waltz down to Chambers St. and start with one of their $150 Barolos from 1971, proceed to buy at least one of those absurd Auslesen from 2005 and one Spatlese to boot, nab at least one Cote Rotie (syrah is the most abused grape -- witness a Mollydooker, from afar), ponder over the Southern Rhone reds, then skip merrily through the Vouvrays and Savennieres to fulfill the budgetary obligation.

Good lord, visions of old-school Wheel of Fortune are dancing through my head ("I'll take the dinette set for $69...").

Anyhoo, the only reason I put the Loire whites at the bottom of the list is because I buy them in any case; such great values, as you already know.

Give me $800, then I'll start digging into Burgundy.

Anonymous said...

With all the focus on France in your cellar, I'd follow with the previous posters recommendation and look south to Italy for some diversity.

Theres some brilliant releases coming out of Piedmont right now: '04 barbarescos and the '04 barolo's later this year (as well as the 03's which are suprising lots of people). Theres still some 01 Brunello around if Sangio is your thing (of which it is mine in a big way).

2004, 2005, and 2006 were all fairly stellar years for much of Italy so its a good time to explore if you are not as familiar with their wines.

As far as burg goes Lafarge in Volnay seems to be an annually solid qpr that finds a place in my low splurge budget cellar.


Anonymous said...

Like the blog. Lyle has a really good point to make about which Burgs to buy when.

But if you are looking for longevity, I'd look at Austrian Rieslings or Gruner Veltliners from Hirtzberger, Alzinger, Pichler, or Prager; check out some of the 2005 Cornas from Allemand or Clape; maybe check out some Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco, or squirrel away some Vouvray from Foreau, Chidaine, or Huet.


Anonymous said...

Agree at $15/bottle average you can drink exciting wines. Being cost conscious (or money-short) almost anything above $50 makes me think that I'm making a mistake! Have crossed the $50 line a few times and it's been on Cornas by T.Allemand and A.Clape and Jaboulet Hermitage. If (if!) I had $400 for 4 bottles I would venture into good Burgundy producers, and for that would need advice from a friend. My wish, if at all possible, would be for wines that are drinkable in the short term.

Brooklynguy said...

hi steve l - good to see you. yup, i knew i recognized the allemand recommendation. i'm pretty sure that I'm down with syrah enough to do this. we'll see. what is there to do with the kind of wine you're talking about? i feel like an auction site is the answer. anything is better than drinking the wine if the money gets you a wine you actually want.

i like your wheel of fortune fantasy. and the bottles you suggest sound right to me, although i have ZERO experience with good barolo.

hi brian - i usually love lafarge too, but i didn't love the 05 volnay vend selection i tasted recently. have you had the 05s? any good?

hey john - glad you like it. this is like the fifth time allemand has come up. must be something to this. i have a lot of loire white in the cellar, so same wavelength there. just went to an 06 GV tasting and was really impressed, so i hear you on that. thanks for stopping by.

hey javier - i hear you. $15-20 is my daily drink too. i think its important to splurge though on something that you love, at least once a year. again the allemand. i think i have to get a bottle based on all of these comments. thanks for stopping by.

Jeff said...

I find myself picking up bigger ticket wines because I see them, I've heard about them, and I want to try them. Because of that, I too have a fair number of all over the place wines in my cellar. I still see it as exciting to try them one day. Well see I guess.

Joe said...

1) I thought "P.Diddy" when I first met you
2) You went deep on the '05 Bordeaux! Maybe I can "free up some cash" for you to recycle elsewhere
3) Sometimes you "just have to" - even the occasional "mistake" is a learning experience

My suggestions? Knowing what you like, I might suggest Barbaresco - the Barolos are too big/tannic, but the elegance of Barbaresco, aromatics, acidity and structure - I definitely picture you enjoying that as a splurge (this Barbaresco fits the bill). Austrian whites (Pichler, Shloss Gobelsburg), white Hermitage, or an elegant, aged Madiran would also be my suggestions.

As you can see, I HAVE been drinking like P.Diddy lately, but that has to stop. I think I will reverse the question to you - top 5 (4 red, 1 white, any region) $15 wines with "reasonable" availability?

Brooklynguy said...

jeff - it's always exciting. i just feel sometimes that there is no logic to what i splurged on before. i want to change that. someone suggested having a tasting of old splurges that don't make sense now - a pretty good idea.

hey joe - i appreciate that, really. too many people miss that side of me, the p diddy side. do i take it that you want 05 bordeaux? if i have something that you want, tell me. we'll work something out. and funny that you mention austrian whites. i tries several recently that would be splurges, but they were very compelling wines. not sure yet about barb versus barolo. i need to read more about them. as for your $15 question - I'll post something very very soon.

(M)ary said...

Oh, if I go over $20 it is a splurge. However, when I am shopping for wine you would think I was spending my entire paycheck for as much time as I take to pick one.

Brooklynguy said...

hey there M - that's perfectly fine. that means you're like most of the USA. and i spend more time than you picking wines, I bet. i'm impossibly slow. i like to look at every bottle in the shop and see what it feels like in my hand.

Deetrane said...

In the interests of coming clean and of keeping this unstoppable comment rally going, I must confess: I splurge on wine, oh, every two weeks or so. For me, it takes the form of obsessively bidding on WineCommune for wines that are trading at 1/3 to 1/2 of the lowest retail price. In some cases, this means $25-$40 a bottle, but for stuff I otherwise wouldn't even think about sampling at retail. The downside is that sometimes I don't like the wine. But not very often!! :)

Andrew Ross said...

It's exciting to me that I'm 27 and have this great blog and THE INTERNET to guide me to great Burgundy/Loire producers. I smile when I think out the 50+ years of drinking world class wine I have ahead of me...

Thank you.