Those were the days

Talking to one of my longtime wine friends the other day, we were commiserating on how difficult it would be these days to start a wine collection focused on Bordeaux. When he began collecting in the early 80s he could find First Growth Bordeaux from the 1982 vintage for less than $60.00 a bottle, Super Seconds for under $40.00 and well, you get the idea. Granted in 1985 the dollar went quite a bit farther than it does today but the 2009 vintage of those same First Growths are going to retail for around $900.00 a pop. When the 2000 First Growths were released at around $400.00 we thought they would never sell at those prices but they were sold out in no time. Now, even in this economy, those wines are selling at auction for nearing $2000.00 a bottle. If you were buying these wines as investments it would be difficult to find a better return anywhere. We used to carry many older vintages of the five 1st Growths of Bordeaux. I had around 40 different labels in my ABC alone. This all changed after the prices were released for the much heralded “Robert Parker’s reviews” of the 2005 vintage. At $700.00 plus you could buy a 2005 First Growth or bottles from the great, proven vintages such as 1982, 1986 for the same price or much less. These wines were approaching their peak or could be cellared for another decade or more. If I had the kind of money it took to buy these wines, I would do the same thing. In just a matter of months it seemed as if every older vintage of the 1st Growths we carried was sold out.

This conversation began because my friend had just celebrated his 65th birthday the other day with a 1982 Mouton Rothschild he bought at a Napa Valley wine store in ’85. He bought a couple of the many cases they had stacked of Mouton along with cases ’82 Pichon Lalande, Lafite Rothschild and others. He is now down to bottles of all of these, along with many other of the great vintages of the 80s, and 90s but no longer buys these wines because the prices have gone through the roof. Even now, the prices of the “Super Seconds” such as Ch. Léoville Las Cases, La Mission Haut Brion (La Mission Haut Brion is not a second growth.  That is in the Médoc.  La Mission is a classified growth of Pessac-Léognan) are selling for the same prices as the 1st Growths were just 6-7 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of great Bordeaux to be had at much more affordable prices, but the days of splurging on a bottle of First Bordeaux, at least for now, are over for people like me. Hopefully, we will see the day when you didn’t have to be a CEO, professional athlete, or Russian billionaire to buy these great wines.

— Ken Amendola, Wine Supervisor, North Florida

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