How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

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David Kubiak
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How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#1 Post by David Kubiak » November 5th, 2019, 11:32 am

In perusing the catalogue of an upcoming auction at a prominent American firm I was flabbergasted first that they would even accept for sale Bordeaux from vintages like '65, '67, '69, '80, and some individual well-known drenched disasters from '64. Most of the wines in these years were bilge water to start out. I cannot imagine what they must taste like now. Two memories, one of my father in '72 pouring the '64 Mouton down the drain after spitting out what was in his mouth, and me drinking the '80 Pétrus in the late '80's, when it was, as they say, 'a pleasant little lunch wine' -- emphasis on little. Of course they do not publish notes on these bottles, since they might contain adjectives like 'disgusting'. And the estimates for such glorious first growth bottles are way in the thousands (if memory serves as much as $10,000 for a group of '80 Pétrus). One would suppose that anybody buying at auction from a major house is a savvy person who knows what he's getting. Why do people buy undrinkable wines?

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#2 Post by larry schaffer » November 5th, 2019, 11:39 am

Define 'terrible' or 'undrinkable' on an objective manner please . . .
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#3 Post by Josh Grossman » November 5th, 2019, 11:40 am

The new rich want Veblen goods. Is there a better place than an auction to show conspicuous consumption?

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#4 Post by Anton D » November 5th, 2019, 11:43 am

Josh Grossman wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 11:40 am
The new rich want Veblen goods. Is there a better place than an auction to show conspicuous consumption?
Bingo.

Lots of people want "complete verticals." pileon

Some people with the means may just want to find out for themselves how these things taste and develop.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#5 Post by Chris Seiber » November 5th, 2019, 11:45 am

David Kubiak wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 11:32 am
In perusing the catalogue of an upcoming auction at a prominent American firm I was flabbergasted first that they would even accept for sale Bordeaux from vintages like '65, '67, '69, '80, and some individual well-known drenched disasters from '64. Most of the wines in these years were bilge water to start out. I cannot imagine what they must taste like now. Two memories, one of my father in '72 pouring the '64 Mouton down the drain after spitting out what was in his mouth, and me drinking the '80 Pétrus in the late '80's, when it was, as they say, 'a pleasant little lunch wine' -- emphasis on little. Of course they do not publish notes on these bottles, since they might contain adjectives like 'disgusting'. And the estimates for such glorious first growth bottles are way in the thousands (if memory serves as much as $10,000 for a group of '80 Pétrus). One would suppose that anybody buying at auction from a major house is a savvy person who knows what he's getting. Why do people buy undrinkable wines?
Interesting question. Especially given the ease of obtaining information today - it would take 60 seconds on Google to realize the deal with many of those wines.

A few random thoughts:

One: I don't know that everyone buying expensive wines at auction is savvy. You might trip up a few people swilling wine on auction night with the name and age of those wines.

Two: There may be some random rich dudes (or some employee of said rich dude) backfilling a new McMansion cellar with impressive looking labels. If some guy is showing guests around his beautiful walk-in cellar, and there are bottles like 1965 Lafite and 1969 Haut Brion sitting around on display, even most wine lovers aren't immediately going to realize that those bottles are crap. Maybe the owner doesn't even know, or care.

Three: Maybe some people want to own verticals. "I have every vintage of Chateaux Margaux going back to 1961."
Last edited by Chris Seiber on November 5th, 2019, 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#6 Post by Dale Williams » November 5th, 2019, 11:46 am

And tastes vary (and wines develop differently than expected- can find positive notes on 1980 Petrus and 1964 Mouton here and on CT. I've had neither, but have had unexpected surprises from "off" vintages.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#7 Post by Tom Chen » November 5th, 2019, 11:47 am

For me, it's to find a vintage that marks a special occasion in someone's life, e.g., birth, wedding anniversary, first job, etc.

In such cases, the bottle may be more important than drinking the best wine.

And, drinking a bottle from that special year and reflecting on that year can make whatever is inside that bottle more enjoyable.

There is a limit though obviously.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#8 Post by ybarselah » November 5th, 2019, 11:48 am

David Kubiak wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 11:32 am
One would suppose that anybody buying at auction from a major house is a savvy person who knows what he's getting.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#9 Post by Anton D » November 5th, 2019, 12:27 pm

Tom Chen wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 11:47 am
For me, it's to find a vintage that marks a special occasion in someone's life, e.g., birth, wedding anniversary, first job, etc.

In such cases, the bottle may be more important than drinking the best wine.

And, drinking a bottle from that special year and reflecting on that year can make whatever is inside that bottle more enjoyable.

There is a limit though obviously.
Agree!
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#10 Post by Victor Hong » November 5th, 2019, 12:30 pm

Rudy is trying to fill bad-vintage gaps in his verticals. He has already covered the good vintages.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#11 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » November 5th, 2019, 12:52 pm

Mouton is a bad example to use for your point, as it is often the unheralded vintages that go for crazy prices at auction for people to complete verticals of the label collection. These are the vintages that were consumed early, often used for restaurants, so harder to find the labels. Many of these labels are from historically relevant, and famous, modern artists. The 64 label your dad poured down the drain is Henry Moore. And incidentally, some of those vintages may surprise you. I popped a 1965 mouton several years ago, and it completely defied expectations, was quite lovely. I have also had really nice 64s.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#12 Post by Jay Miller » November 5th, 2019, 1:09 pm

I've had some really nice Bordeaux from 1964 and 1967.
Ripe fruit isn't necessarily a flaw.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#13 Post by GregT » November 5th, 2019, 1:36 pm

I never understood the need for verticals but that's probably part of it. And as Larry notes, everyone has a different sense of "undrinkable". I would never mark a special occasion with a wine I thought was second rate though.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#14 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » November 5th, 2019, 2:07 pm

GregT wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 1:36 pm
I never understood the need for verticals but that's probably part of it. And as Larry notes, everyone has a different sense of "undrinkable". I would never mark a special occasion with a wine I thought was second rate though.
Birth year wines are fun. My best friend and business partner is a 1969 baby. A tough wine year for Europe. He’s one of these guys that has everything already, so on some of his special birthdays, like his recent 50, I got him birthyear wines that we consumed together: the 1969 Heitz was quite good. We popped the 69 BV Private Reserve on a prior birthyear. Sure, an 82 Bordeaux might have been better, but not the same.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#15 Post by Anton D » November 5th, 2019, 3:00 pm

GregT wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 1:36 pm
I never understood the need for verticals but that's probably part of it. And as Larry notes, everyone has a different sense of "undrinkable". I would never mark a special occasion with a wine I thought was second rate though.
I guess the key is how you arrived at your conclusion that the wine was second rate.

I think it's fun to try 'off year' wines to expand my experience/palate.

I think I approach wine appreciation in the same way as sex appreciation: even when it's bad it's still pretty good. [cheers.gif]
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#16 Post by John Glas » November 5th, 2019, 3:31 pm

Well our local wine shop Haskell's is offering an event that is way overpriced compared to the Hennepin Lake Tasting earlier this fall. A quarter of the wines of quality and they are promoting the 76 Chateau Margaux which looks like a serious dude! I am sure for the novice that knows the name will think they are at some exclusive tasting.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#17 Post by Dan Kravitz » November 5th, 2019, 5:13 pm

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#18 Post by Michael Martin » November 5th, 2019, 5:34 pm

My experience is time heals the wounds of the winemaker and in many cases vintage.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#19 Post by Randy C » November 5th, 2019, 6:59 pm

I try to buy 67s (birth year) when I can. It's very hit and miss but I love the hunt and, like others have said, I get lots of joy opening them that goes beyond whether it is objectively a great wine for the price. And sometimes I get some amazing stuff -- 67 Latour a couple months ago was really fabulous. And I do like to look at things like a 67 GDL and 67 Montrose (both bought at auction) sitting there in my cellar. One good thing about buying 67s is that I doubt there is a huge industry out there producing fake 67s. (At least I hope not now that you all know that I'm an easy mark!)

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#20 Post by JLee » November 5th, 2019, 7:13 pm

I think it's fair to say that prestige and scarcity drive prices at the highest end of the wine market, much more so than what the wine tastes like.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#21 Post by Julian Marshall » November 6th, 2019, 12:32 am

I understand the demand for prestigious wines, but the weird thing is the demand for the others. In the past, auction houses over here sold mixed cases, in which there were good wines and some real stinkers, the point being that when bidding, you didn't include any cost for them. Sometimes they turned out as expected, sometimes the stinkers were surprisingly good, such as a bottle of Lafon-Rochet 1984 I remember buying. Nowadays, those bottles sell by themselves - and still do so successfully. It's not just the bad vintages, even totally flawed wines sell - I keep on seeing bottles of Phélan-Ségur 1985, which was recalled by the château at the time. As for the countless bottles of various 2003 disasters...I'm astounded. It's true that they all sell for between only 30 and 60€, but that's not the same as buying a bottle in a mixed case for 0€.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#22 Post by Pat Esposito » November 6th, 2019, 4:58 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 2:07 pm
GregT wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 1:36 pm
I never understood the need for verticals but that's probably part of it. And as Larry notes, everyone has a different sense of "undrinkable". I would never mark a special occasion with a wine I thought was second rate though.
Birth year wines are fun. My best friend and business partner is a 1969 baby. A tough wine year for Europe. He’s one of these guys that has everything already, so on some of his special birthdays, like his recent 50, I got him birthyear wines that we consumed together: the 1969 Heitz was quite good. We popped the 69 BV Private Reserve on a prior birthyear. Sure, an 82 Bordeaux might have been better, but not the same.
I'm a '73 baby, not exactly Vintage of the decade, but I have had a lot of fun buying and trying different wines from that year. '73 Ridge Monte Bello, '73 Ridge Geyserville Zin, and '73 Heitz MV have been stunning. The few Bordeaux I've had, not so much. But it is always fun to see if I am aging better than the wines!

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#23 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » November 6th, 2019, 5:16 am

Pat Esposito wrote:
November 6th, 2019, 4:58 am
Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 2:07 pm
GregT wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 1:36 pm
I never understood the need for verticals but that's probably part of it. And as Larry notes, everyone has a different sense of "undrinkable". I would never mark a special occasion with a wine I thought was second rate though.
Birth year wines are fun. My best friend and business partner is a 1969 baby. A tough wine year for Europe. He’s one of these guys that has everything already, so on some of his special birthdays, like his recent 50, I got him birthyear wines that we consumed together: the 1969 Heitz was quite good. We popped the 69 BV Private Reserve on a prior birthyear. Sure, an 82 Bordeaux might have been better, but not the same.
I'm a '73 baby, not exactly Vintage of the decade, but I have had a lot of fun buying and trying different wines from that year. '73 Ridge Monte Bello, '73 Ridge Geyserville Zin, and '73 Heitz MV have been stunning. The few Bordeaux I've had, not so much. But it is always fun to see if I am aging better than the wines!
Pat - I had a fantastic 1973 Latour this year. I see A So left high praise on this wine as well on CT: a real 93.

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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#24 Post by Steve Brickley » November 6th, 2019, 6:39 am

You could be lucky as to be born in 1956, one of the worst years I have heard. I have a few Barolo from the year.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#25 Post by P@u1_M3nk3s » November 6th, 2019, 8:54 am

Not auction but I recently saw 1990 Pichon Lalande being offered for $210.00. That's a lot of money for a decent wine but very disappointing considering the vintage and the chateau.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#26 Post by John Morris » November 6th, 2019, 9:54 am

I, too, have had lots of very pleasant surprises from very old supposedly off vintages.

That said, I’m sure the prices are driven more by vertical fill-ins or “event” years.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#27 Post by R@y.Tupp@+sch » November 6th, 2019, 10:03 am

Pat Esposito wrote:
November 6th, 2019, 4:58 am

I'm a '73 baby, not exactly Vintage of the decade, but I have had a lot of fun buying and trying different wines from that year. '73 Ridge Monte Bello, '73 Ridge Geyserville Zin, and '73 Heitz MV have been stunning. The few Bordeaux I've had, not so much. But it is always fun to see if I am aging better than the wines!
Plenty of great Champagnes in '73.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#28 Post by Gerhard P. » November 6th, 2019, 11:25 am

Well, the question is: how terrible - and why?
There are always positive surprises to be found ... (if you´ve made your homeworks)

However, imho there are usually the following reasons:

- anniversaries
- buy on reputation, money no issue
- no idea of anything, but far too much money
.....

btw: 1980 Petrus is not a bad wine, I would love to drink it for 50-70 bucks a bottle ... flirtysmile
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#29 Post by Gerhard P. » November 6th, 2019, 11:32 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 2:07 pm

Birth year wines are fun. My best friend and business partner is a 1969 baby. A tough wine year for Europe.
69 was very weak in Bordeaux, but outstanding in Burgund (red) and even better in the Rhone valley ! [cheers.gif]
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#30 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » November 6th, 2019, 12:51 pm

Jay Miller wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 1:09 pm
I've had some really nice Bordeaux from 1964 and 1967.
Same here.
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#31 Post by Mark Golodetz » November 6th, 2019, 1:12 pm

Julian Marshall wrote:
November 6th, 2019, 12:32 am
I understand the demand for prestigious wines, but the weird thing is the demand for the others. In the past, auction houses over here sold mixed cases, in which there were good wines and some real stinkers, the point being that when bidding, you didn't include any cost for them. Sometimes they turned out as expected, sometimes the stinkers were surprisingly good, such as a bottle of Lafon-Rochet 1984 I remember buying. Nowadays, those bottles sell by themselves - and still do so successfully. It's not just the bad vintages, even totally flawed wines sell - I keep on seeing bottles of Phélan-Ségur 1985, which was recalled by the château at the time. As for the countless bottles of various 2003 disasters...I'm astounded. It's true that they all sell for between only 30 and 60€, but that's not the same as buying a bottle in a mixed case for 0€.
I am pretty sure the Phelan Segur recalled was the 1983. I have fond memories of the 1985
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Re: How to Explain Auction Prices of Terrible Wines?

#32 Post by Julian Marshall » November 6th, 2019, 2:04 pm

Mark, I could be wrong but I think it was actually 1983, 1984 and 1985 which were withdrawn when the Gardiniers took over. But it’s really not important!

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