Old wines are for birthdays

Can there be another product that is capable of an ever-inflating price tag beside wine? Cheese possibly, but hardly any other food will come close to these. As an agricultural product and ingestible item, it sure is weird why people are willing to fork out exorbitant amount of money for things that are really old. Would you pay more for a 10-year old bread over a loaf of freshly baked fresh bread?

Taste of an old wine is usually an acquired fanciness, they stray far beyond the imagination of those who are accustomed to young wines. In a good way, one will find sweet earth, tobacco, dried leave and tar. In a bad way, smell of barnyard, vinegar or even manure. Remember the champagne recovered from sunken ship in 2010? The champagne described as having hint of manure were later valued at US$70,000 each. Trust me, I’m not shi*ting you.

Sometimes it is not just the content within that gets attention, the vessel and its accompanying label have their fair share of followers too. Their tattered and yellowed labels usually attracts more attention and camera shots than any young wines you will come across. If labels can be accessories or incorporated in apparel design, the next fashion season in Paris will surely be showcasing dresses made of wine labels.

Having regurgitate the opinions from a pro-young wine drinker, I admit I am equally guilty of buying back vintages wines. Solely for one purpose, birthday.

Buying birthday present is an increasingly difficult affair year after year. As a wine person, a bottle of wine with the four digits marked clearly on the label naturally seems like an awesome idea. If there is anything that can go more precise for the birth-date of the recipient, then that will be a newspaper.

It was sometime late last year when I placed an order for a 1984 Sassicaia to mark my 30th year existence. The next evening I received a call from the London-based broker trying to dissuade me.

“Mister Chan, are you certain you want this wine from 1984? It did not receive a good rating from Robert Parker.”

Couple of months later, with perfect hindsight, I agreed that she was right. The wine had barely anything left in it. The vintage wasn’t great, the wine was weak and dull. Anything that was worth reminiscing was the label. The 1984 printed between the name of the wine and its producer.

Fortunately the same thing hadn’t happen to other wines that I bought. Both Bordeaux wines, a 1976 Chateau Talbot and 1979 Chateau L’Evangile, had survived through the years, or perhaps I was lucky these important people in my life were born in great years. Classic goodies expected from old wines, but nonetheless there were people who didn’t like these backdated treasures.

Bottom line, if it means anything, is that my money goes to wine bottle with emotional significance over ego-inflation. For now I am happy to indulge in the products of  21st century.

the author

One fine day, Wai Xin woke up and decided to throw Java coding out of window in exchange for a career in wine. Believing strongly that wine is for enjoyment and not a trading commodity, he encourages sensible, affordable drinking and the exploration of individual preferences.