Thursday, 9 October 2014

Investing in wine – without money

The other day, some chap asked CJ and me what we thought about investing in wine. I mean, for goodness’ sake. Why on earth ask us? You might as well ask us about investing in pork bellies, because we happen to eat sausages. 

Still, there is a sense in which we all ‘invest’ money in wine, as we do in anything we buy. You ‘invest’ in a can of baked beans – although, unless you’re CJ, probably quite a bit less than you invest in a bottle of wine. If I remember my Economics A-Level, we all consider the opportunity cost of buying something else instead, and weigh up the value, the cost/reward ratio, of the wine we buy. All of which sounds like investment to me.

And it struck me that actually, I invest a great deal in my wine. Not in terms of money, but in other, more personal ways.

Ego, for example. Every time I serve a wine to guests, every time I choose a wine in a restaurant, every time I pluck a wine from a shelf under the beady eye of a wine merchant, I feel that my standing is on the line. Rightly or wrongly, I feel I will be judged by my selection; I’m investing my knowledge, my experience and my financial acumen in a choice of wine. And I feel proud when I get it right. That’s a much more emotional investment than money.

Then there is time, the most valuable commodity of all nowadays, or so I believe we are being told by people I haven’t got time to read. 

Standing in front of the shelves of wine, staring at the dozens of alternatives, is like Indiana Jones trying to choose the true Grail.

Oh, the time spent, wondering what on earth to buy, whether that one is worth it, and who on earth thought that was an attractive label? Is that the one I read about last week, or is it that one? Can that one possibly be worth it? Trying to remember what you’re buying it for, what are you eating, who’s coming, and is Gruner Veltliner a wine or a cruise ship? Time ticks away, marked only by the increasingly impatient noises from the chap behind the counter. You can easily invest half an hour of your valuable time in all of this, or until they call security.

And that’s not to include in shopping time the piles of mailings which come through the door, and e-mails which come through the ether, which eat up time with their offers and announcements. Or the subsequent comparative shopping online, juggling the price with the minimum purchase with the delivery charge…“Ridiculous the waste sad time”.

Far greater than the shopping time can, of course, be the storage time invested in a bottle. I am storing a number of cases of wine which, for the sake of marital harmony, I shall define as few. My cellar is nothing like the sophisticated storage of true investment wines, in which cases are bought and sold without ever being seen, let alone handled or drunk, by their nominal owners. No, my cellar is not a bonded, temperature-controlled warehouse. Retrieval from sophisticated warehouse storage does not incorporate the risk of tripping over my toolbox. And my cellar is no more ‘secure’ than the rest of our house, although because I happen to know they’re a bugger just to get down there, good luck to any burglar who wants to carry a wooden case of wine up our cellar stairs in the dead of night. 

Mrs K imagines the space invested in wine could perhaps be occupied by other household essentials. I, too, regret the inability to store more half-used tins of paint. 

But I look at my bottles of 1983 Port, my 1989 claret, my unopened cases of 2009 Bordeaux, and see the years invested in waiting for their maturity. Time well spent.

And at the end is that most emotional investment in wine – expectation. Am I the only one who feels something between excitement and anxiety at opening a bottle? One that I’ve finally decided to bring out of my cellar. Or a bottle I’ve bought specially, or someone else has provided. Or perhaps I’m looking at the label in the hands of a wine waiter. Or sometimes I’m just reading the tasting notes in a merchant’s list before I buy. 

Anticipating the flavour, trying to imagine it; then going through the rituals of opening the bottle, sniffing it, perhaps even decanting it, before actually tasting the wine. Will it live up to all the great expectations I’ve invested in it? 

Time, space, self-esteem, hope, delight and pride, all invested in the pulling of a cork. Emotional investments can disappoint as well as delight, and past performance is no guarantee of future returns, etc. But I would rather open a bottle of wine than a trading position.

And at least my investment might provide pleasure as it goes down.



  1. There can't be many blog posts that make direct reference to Indiana Jones, Gruner Veltliner, and TS Eliot in three consecutive paragraphs.

    Kudos, Mr K; kudos.

  2. Thank you! Always nice to have ones efforts acknowledged...

  3. Triumph. Love it. Live it.