Digestive enzymes are your friend!
Good post and I mostly agree with it.
Just a couple of points. While restaurant mark ups on wine are brutally high, they are usually even higher on liquor and beer…
…and profit margins on restaurants are usually terrible. Even with the cringe worthy mark ups on alcohol. It is a very, very hard business.
Last, I don’t think the millinial or younger people’s choices are particularly different than they were 30 years ago. At 54 I drink a fair amount of wine, between 20-30, I drank next to none until I was 25 and then shifted gears because someone opened an amazing bottle for me. Even with that I still drank other options like cocktails and beer, as well.
The big difference, IMO, is that wine wasn’t a luxury good. 1992 Peter Michael Les Pavots was $29.99/bottle. That was my splurge in 1995. 1993 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon was $28.
Sancerre was $15-20, Cotes du Rhone were $7-12, but Cornas was $20-25. Alain Graillot’s Crozes Hermitage was $19. 1er Cru Burgundy ranged from $25-50 unless it was older or an absolutely top producer pushing price. First growth Bordeaux was around $150(1982 Lafite). Expensive but still reachable. I skipped buying a bottle of the 1982 Lafite in 1993 so that I could buy a 6 pack of Burgundy and Rhone wines for the same $150.
As a sommelier running a high end French restaurant’s wine list we had cringe worthy mark ups on wine, but only about 5% of the wines were north of $100. 1990 Rayas, 1995 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze were $250.
Most of all, really solid wines with a lot of soul would often be sub-$12. There were plenty of bad bottles too, but cost was low enough that something terrible wouldn’t put me off of trying more wines.
Today’s wines are more consistent, but at the by the glass level in restaurant many wines are simply boring or not good. And a lot of mass produced wines are well made but not very interesting. I have an aquaintance who makes nearly 1,000,000 casee of wine. From a logistics standpoint, that just doesn’t pan out to a process that brings lots of nuance to the wines. A lot of the low end wines now are very drinkable, but not terribly engaging and not necessarily something that would really spark an enthusiasm for wine.
Couldn’t agree more. On all counts.
The question of why not better BTG lists has always confused me. I have no experience in the restaurant industry so I’ve always assumed it’s my lack of industry knowledge, but I can think of plenty of bottles that, in my mind, would make great BTG pours. LdH Cubillo, Baudry, Lanessan are a few that come to mind quickly on the red side. Tons of kabi’s and chablis fit for whites. These wines make sense in my mind but not in the minds of the people making these lists. They seem to fit $ wise and are at minimum decently available. Good with food and can be drank without food as well. I can’t make sense of it and would love someone in the industry to make sense of it for me
I’ll pile on. To me the term “natural wine” is a negative at this point. I agree with your mindset of organic/biodynamic is better and can see this though my own personal tastings. The “natural wine” movement may have good and honest roots, but at this point, it’s a haven for bad winemaking IMO. You can’t keep telling me your wine with overwhelming VA or mousiness is just a result of natural wine making and I should think it’s high quality. Again, all for low intervention but not if it means making bad wine
BTG is tough for any small artisanal producer to support. Like mentioned, the restaurant wants to buy the bottle for the same amount they can charge for ONE glass. So, let’s do my Mission as an example - because I had out by the glass at Otium here in LA, about a year back - so have real numbers to give:
They charged $14 for it BTG, so that’s what they paid for the bottle. At that time, I did not have a distributor, so sold directly to them. I charged $29 for it on my website, so $14 was of course painful in comparison, but doable when you consider the exposure and the association it gets (you have to view this as half wine sales, half marketing).
Now that I have a distributor, who roughly marks up 30-35%, that $14 BTG price would only net me about $9 per bottle. That is for most wineries, including mine, below cost to produce, so just not sustainable long term. Sure, it can be done temporarily if you chalk it down to “marketing” costs to achieve a greater goal, but not something that will pay the rent long term.
I wish it wasn’t so expensive to produce wine here - it really irks me - because I detest the inflated US wine pricing we’ve all been saddled with. But it is what it is. I really applaud producers like Sandlands, Monte Rio, Lioco etc and many, many others who still manage to make great wine at an affordable price point. I’d like to think of myself as belonging to that group, although I did have to raise the prices slightly last year to accommodate the 20-30% increase in costs.
Exactly. My experience has been that 3x markups are now typical at restaurants and some seem to be edging toward 4x. When you combine this with bland and unimaginative selections, it often means that very mediocre supermarket wines are now over $50 when ordered off a restaurant list. No wonder people get a negative view of wine!
Marcus, I generally agree with you except for this. I am a bit older than you and hit my 30’s at the same time that the dollar was at an all-time high vs European currencies, especially the French Franc, and the post war expansion was at its apogee (resulting in young schlubs like me getting highly paid at comparatively a young age). So, I bought highest end Bordeaux, Burgundy, California et al with wanton excess. Gladwell wrote about the bubble that my generation was fortunate to experience in Outliers.
In my opinion, the bubble that allowed my generation to earn well and buy the best wines in the world at a young age has now reverted back to the mean. The best wines in the world that were then beverages to accompany a meal are now again Vleben goods.
It isn’t the fault of the younger generations; they don’t have the opportunity to buy that we did.
That makes a ton of sense. I think we both basically view it the same. Todays young people are dealing with wine as Vleben good or a mass market knock off, whereas you and I(once I discovered good wine) both could drink the best wines of the world much more easily. You more than I from the sound of it, but First growth Bordeaux, DRC, and vintage Krug while mostly beyond my means, it wasn’t by much. Whereas those wines are all much farther out of my means now than they were then, and my resources have improved considerably.
Same for me.
I’ve seen this before. And i won’t argue that a few wines are beyond my reach like DRC (mostly just Burgundy). But i could still buy a bottle of Krug or high end Bordeaux once in a while, even though i am not super rich or anything.
But most importantly i do not in any way feel like i am missing out on the so called “best wines in the world”. I had some of those. I liked many of them, but i also found wines i liked as much or more than the big names elsewhere. Jura are my true love and i most often prefer them to the well aged famous white Burgundy i have tasted as an example. My favourite Pinot comes from Germanys new generation of young winemakers. I can still buy my beloved Northern Rhone Syrah. World class Nebbiolo can still be found at decent prices if you adventure a bit outside the big names.
There is such a widely available world of top quailty wine out there which i can order directly from my phone. I don’t feel like i cannot get some of the best wines in the world. What the best wine is, is probably just different in our views.
That’s a very savvy post, and to be fair with global warming my personal preferences are not the same as they were 30 years ago. But the German Pinot Noirs of 30 years ago were nothing like todays. Reputations sometimes move slower than climate though, so there are a lot of lovely wines that are quite likely the equal of some of the great wines of years gone by and are simply not recognized by consumers looking to spend more.
I prefer Oregon to the Jura, but that’s as likely my location and familiarity with Willamette Valley Chardonnay vs what is imported from the Jura.
But also, please don’t mix up what Mark or I said with affording a bottle of Krug or high end bordeaux once in a while. Mark said they drank them routinely, and I bought Krug regularly, as well as Juge, Allemand, and Verset by the case on a bartenders income. Nebbiolo required no adventuring outside the big names, though I enjoyed many Piemontese wines outside the big names I also drank Giacosa routinely (that was the big name I preferred so I sampled the others and cellared Giacosa). That doesn’t mean you are missing out on the best wines of the world, just that for someone new to wine, many of the publicized wineries are more prohibitively expensive than they used to be. And unlike when I was getting into wine, prices on specific wines can become stratospheric in the span of a year or two.
Also, adventuresome palates almost always find what they’re looking for, and while any statement I make about younger consumers has to include you, it also covers people who are not like you. Generalizations are by default neither always right nor completely wrong.
To provide a counterpoint:
There’s a lot more great wine available right now than when you and Mark were younger
Don’t get me wrong, great French wine is absurdly expensive for those without means today. But, something like Do Ferreiro Green label is available at $25ish and is a stellar example of Albariño. There is plenty of Italian wine at more than fair prices and while Portugal is tough for me, those who know…know.
There’s more to learn and know about today, but there are loads of great wines that aren’t being mentioned here that are available and collectible for those that don’t have a lot of 0s to their paycheck
We should dispense with this false dichotomy. Top wines are more out of reach than they once were. Wines within reach have never been better. These are not mutually exclusive propositions.
Yea, I don’t get what your issue is? I’ve seen this shouting into the wind repeatedly for over 15 years now and it’s constant goalpost shifting. Top wines are always expensive. There is literally an ocean of wine that is extremely collectible and likely will be extremely expensive when this topic comes up yet again in 2030. Just because you can’t buy vintage Krug for $225 a btl like we could’ve in 2010 doesn’t mean that Agrapart Venus isn’t just as collectible and isn’t a top Champagne.
Edit: and I would be more than certain that there were posts here in 09 complaining about Burgundy prices that look like a pittance now. I distinctly remember plenty of kvetching on Ebob when the 06 first growth prices came out. Now….those look easy and affordable. Ya dig?
Double edit: Gonon was a $40 wine 10 years ago and would’ve been cited in these threads on stuff like this. Now….it’s $180+ if you are quick enough on tbe reply to Crush. It’s a constant shell game
Wines within reach have never been more consistent.
I disagree that they were better and I have consumed both then and now. There are regions like the Jura where wines are still unique and intriguing, but much of the “improvement” in wines made now is being harvested riper, sorted more, fermented similarly to every other good producer, and then ttreated to an array of adjuncts from the winery supply store that produce “better” but really all following a similar profile.
Natural wines have stuck and are thriving despite sometimes very obvious and onerous flaws largely because the field of “well made” wines is by and large 13.5-16.0 abv and a narrower range of expression than the wines of 30 years ago.
I posted earlier on the use of mega-purple in wines these days. It didn’t exist 30 years ago and we were better for it.
I also disagree here.
Do Ferriero was a producer I drank and knew.
Portuguese wines existed, I was introduced to good dry Portuguese reds by Jasper Morris in 1996. Spain was the same. Jura meant Puffeney, a truly great winemaker. And all of the others, from the Northern Rhone to anywhere you want to name, prehaps excluding South America. There was a world of Burgundy to explore, and while Germany is Germany now, the Pinot Noirs were much more raw and unrefined than they are now, but that was still good and there were lots of great German wines from other cool and intereting varieties that get no attention now because German Pinot Noirs are the new thing.
I had a crazy bottle of Swiss Chasselas, 1964 Lopez de Heredia Bianco, and hundreds of other phenomenal wines. Including the “great” wines everyone is pooh-poohing now in the thread. Were there off wines? Mmm…a few wines had flaws but only very few were so intrusive the wines were undrinkable. I see that routinely these days in natural wines, and far more often get stuck with wines that simply have no personality beyond overly ripe fruit.
The trope that wine today is better, doesn’t hold true for me. That’s just my opinion, but being correct isn’t the same as being great.
And just like IG makes dishes in a restaurant in Woodinville Washington look like dishes in Denmark and Paris, the worldwide opinion of what “good” wine is has led to the loss of cultural processes that, IMO, was way more interesting than the “right” way to make wine,
It’s why I agree with Lasse that the Jura is more interesting than white Burgundy.
Just because you knew them doesn’t make that an ultimate around even this small keyhole in the wine world. Do Ferreiro is a producer that shocks plenty of people that aren’t you and they can’t believe that the CV costs $60. I told @Brian_G_r_a_f_s_t_r_o_m about them in the fall of 21 and he’s someone that is routinely on top of wines like that.
I use it as an example and if you give me a day of boredom and thinking, I can come up witb 30 other examples of wines that are white-hot now that weren’t even on the radar 5 years ago. I had a bitch of a time selling Cedric Bouchard in 2016 running the Champagne selection in a store that did 18m+ a year of revenue with 11k sq ft of floor space for wine+beer+spirits as well as warehouse space. I can easily throw in Egly and Uly Collin on that.
You mentioned LdH Blanco. I couldn’t sell that for shit in 2015 at $25! My only regret was not buying them with my 10% discount and I’d look like some hero if I brought that to a tasting now when I’d get looks darted at me by anyone that wasn’t a Somm going after Advanced or MS.
You totally lost me on the IG rant tbh. I don’t know what it has to do with any of what is being discussed here.
As I said upthread, we’ve seen this whole sky is falling charade forever now. I’ve been in this business since 2007 and I’m already at the eye rolling portion of it all. I can’t begin to imagine where you would be.
There will always be great wine made and there are tons of wines now that are undervalued that will be considered towards the top of their heap in 2030. Death and Taxes are the only true guarantees in life, but this isn’t far off either.
Great post Marcus.
What i highlighted in my qoute is probably the biggest change between now and then. Things certainly moves faster. Hype can grow at the speed of light with social media. But it also means that other interesting wines reach me faster. So i guess it is both good and bad.
But it might take more constant research these days to keep up. Some of my favorite winemakers have only 5-10 vintages under their belt and are already highly allocated…