What's your reason for buying new Bordeaux and Burgundy?

At dinner with Morten Hallgren this weekend, head winemaker of Ravines in the Finger Lakes (and an outstanding winemaker and wine mind), Morten pulled a bottle of 1978 Las Cases. He also poured a 1993 Burg, and had this to say during dinner:

“I can get these wines for roughly the same price that new vintages would cost me. Same with Barolo. I can’t understand why anyone would buy these wines new, unless it was purely investment. How long do we plan to live?”

So that has me wondering: If you’re buying new Bordeaux or Burgundy, why? Are you doing so for investment purposes? Are you doing so to hold for children / family? Are you hoping to live a long and fruitful life?

Certain wines come at a steep discount if bought earlier, but I do understand what he’s saying, lots of good stuff from the mid 90’s can be found for roughly the current vintages release/average price.

My question is not meant to be hectoring or condescending, btw. I don’t buy First Growth, and I rarely buy any Burg. Out of my range. Also, I’m too spoiled by myriad solid outlets to buy at super-value that I struggle to pay what might be described as full price.

Provenance, the knowledge acquired by tracking a wine’s evolution, stylistic variety are my top 3. While I’ve abstained from 09s due to the ludicrous pricing, I backfill but acknowledge that the cost to do so (factoring in improperly stored bottles) is higher than one might imagine.


Good stuff. Tracking evolution is the most appealing to me, but I’d have to feel seriously comfortable in my cellar to knock off young Lafite each year. Still, fascinating to do so.

Bordeaux I no longer buy.

Burgundy, I’m 31 (as of today!), therefore I have a life ahead of me that I need to fill with burgundy to drink!

I like what’s going on, I think as a burg buyer, there is more good wine today than back then. A storage is less of an issue today too.

Thereis someone to be said for being able to buy wine from a respected retailer at a decent price close to current release prices (for current vintages) without having to wait for it to age.

For me, my main reason to buy current release is if I can get a killer deal. More often than not I buy back vintages from retailers I trust.

The top 3 reasons why I no longer buy Bordeaux and Burgundy:

Price-my income has not kept pace with the price increases
Supply-I have 250+ bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy
Age-I am 50 years old and no longer cellar wines that need 15-20+ years of cellaring

Ian - What general expectations do you have for how long you’ll need to hold Burgs before drinking? As in, if you’re not buying DRC, do you have a mental guide for which vineyards / levels will be ready at which times?

Ensuring provenance is my number 1 reason to buy current vintages.

Nailed it!

Plus, I actually enjoy drinking some young Bdx. Some actually show well in their youth. Trying an '09 Mathilde right now to figure out how deep I go on this tasty little everyday wine. Enjoyed the '08 at $20/bottle and the '09 is barely more.

Evan, I am 45. My largest holding is in Bdx, with Southern Rhone coming in second. My two favorite regions. I play around in other regions but always come back to roost. Perhaps with Bdx, I start scaling back in purchases around age 55 or so. My dad is 72 and going quite strong. He has a great appreciation for fine, mature wines.

Thanks, Robert! To state the obvious, I’d separate the lower growths from the big dogs in Bordeaux - both in terms of my capacity to purchase, and whether I’d touch them young. I appreciate your perspective. My wheelhouses are German Riesling and Rhone, and I relate to your sentiment of coming home to comfortable old shoes.

Excellent question. My answers are different for Bordeaux and Burgundy.


  • There has been a vast improvement in quality in Burgundy in recent years, owing to various much-discussed factors such as the move away from chemical farming and the excommunication of a certain Maryland wine critic, with many more producers making wine at the top level these days and even some producers who were already at the top arguably now making some of their best wines ever.
  • Burgundy went through some long patches without nearly the number of quality vintages they are experiencing now. Between 1970 and 1990, only '71, '78, and '85 are broadly successful enough that you can feel pretty comfortable buying wines that fly under the radar (and mature Burgundies that don’t fly under the radar ain’t cheap).
  • With respect to Morten’s specific example, I’m not sure that '93 actually offers the prospect of a Burgundy that’s going to be ready to drink sooner than recent releases. 1993 and 1996 seem like vintages that might set records in terms of how much time they will have needed to uncoil and come around. Lots of 1993s don’t taste much more advanced than newly released wines - there is every likelihood of some 2000s, 2004s, 2006s, and 2007s offering pleasure before their 1993 counterparts are ready…

Those are some of the legit reasons, anyway. There are also some psychological reasons at play. A young wine is a tabula rasa, and just like a talented minor league baseball player we can convince ourselves that the sky is the limit in terms of what it can achieve. So we buy. A wine that’s already halfway to three quarters along its aging curve, though… we can see its future more clearly. And when we taste it and see there’s no greatness there, we feel pretty comfortable concluding that it ain’t gonna appear. So better to buy something young and unformed which allows us to hope!


  • Er, I guess I can’t think of a reason to buy young Bordeaux now. Most of them are atrocious and they cost 10 times as much as they did just a few years ago.

I’ll also add that the disheartening price escalation in bdx has bean concentrated in 25-35 or so chateau (esp. The first growths). For these wines, backfilling often is the right answer. The 05 bubble officially burst when haut brion futures were selling for appreciably more than the 89. But I still find deals on newer releases of those ambitious top 50 wines that don’t quite generate the buzz. Vintages 01,04 are a fantastic place to a concentrate.

You can still find dandy deals on old Gruaud larose, la mission, pichon lalande, haut brion. Please do backfill these wines!


This raises a great point, especially with the sharply rising prices of Bordeaux these last several years. You can still buy a 1996 Pontet Canet for about the same price as a 2006 and only about $10-15 more than a 2007. You save yourself a decade or more of storage cost/space, a decade or more of waiting, and probably get a better wine.

This isn’t uniformly the case, but it is good for the consumer to stop and think about it sometimes, rather than just assuming the program is always to buy the current releases and hold onto them for eternity until they’re drinking well.

And as to the provenance issue, if you buy a 1996 from a reputable retailer and the wine is bad, you can probably return it. If you buy a 2007 and open it in 2022 and it’s bad, you can’t return it. So it’s not a clear-cut issue in favor of buying the new release.

But you can’t compare the qaulity of 96 versus 06 for PC. I primarily drink Burgundy so for comaprison sake A bottle of 93 Rousseau Chambertin is at least $850 while I can acquire the 06 for $350 or so. Plus I’ll be assured of perfect provenance in 15 years or so.

I am actually going to call a friendly little B.S. on all the people who answered provenance. You can buy older wines with provenance just as assured as any freshly released wine - you just have to pay a substantial premium for it. So the real reason isn’t provenance but price.

I can only speak regarding Burgundy. Most poorly stored bottles arent “bad” as in flawed or dead but just not nearly as good as they could be. You can’t really return those. Ive found its really really hard to find older burgs that were stored in temperature controlled conditions their whole lives (Im not a high end auction buyer). This all being the case its a much better investment for me to buy young. Plus the variety is better so I can focus my buying with producers I like more easily.