Thursday 18 May 2017

Bling, bling – it's luxury wine calling

Let us wander into the bling side of the wine market. The side which appears to be aimed at Stan Herbert, the Harry Enfield character who boasted of being “considerably richer than yow”.

Once upon a time, bling was effectively confined to champagne. Absurd brands like the gold-bottled, Jay Z-backed Ace of Spades, served in nightclubs accompanied with fireworks, giving new meaning to the term “sparkling wine”.

Then the attention of some nouveau riche turned to rosé wine. The award-winning Henry Jeffreys recently asked whether we should be drinking ‘yacht rosé’, a category in which producers seemingly compete to produce rosé wine with the least taste for the most money. These pale, “sippable” rosés are then sold in colossal, yacht-scale bottles, like 300cl. Sediment’s answer to Henry’s question is obviously no; partly because the wines are pointless exercises in anaemia, and partly because one cannot elegantly serve wine from a bottle the size of a fire extinguisher. In both senses, tasteless.

Presumably such yacht people buy their wine from Hedonism, the aptly-named Mayfair establishment. Not a wine merchant, you understand, but a wine boutique. Its most expensive item is just above the price of an average house in the UK. Although somehow I don’t think their customers live in average houses.

Hedonism has possibly the only wine website which not only allows you to choose red, white etc, but actually offers a pull-down for “100 points RP”   But they provide few notes – so for the novice with £5000 to spend, there is nothing to help him choose between the Petrus 2009  and the Petrus 1990. Except that one is £4,279.80, and the other £4,998.70. Per bottle.

Is it possible to have a more bling wine website? Well, try visiting Clos19,

This is a website that has just been launched by the luxury group LVMH, who own a number of wines like Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem, and want to market them through a package of luxury lifestyle and “experiences”.

I am lured in by the fact that they have an entire section dedicated to the Art of Hosting. However, their’s is a strange world, in which it seems that both dates and business dinners are conducted in black tie.  Where your soulmate serves you spaghetti bolognese, with white wine. And where, if you're entertaining high-flyers, you naturally choose a wine with "lofty altitude".

(That must be where I’ve been going wrong, serving those lowly wines from sea-level…)

Clos19 also provides the least instructive video I have ever seen on how to clean a glass, without employing any cleaning products, but incorporating a flamboyant little flourish to announce completion. I urge you to watch this video, which lasts less time than it would take me to break a glass let alone clean it.

And then they get down to the nitty-gritty of selling their wines.

On Clos19, Cheval Blanc 2009 is £1,105  But you can get Cheval Blanc 2009 for £750 – at Laithwaite’s. Yes, Laithwaite’s! That’s £355, or more than 30%, cheaper. And when you’re ordering online, no-one can see you save.

That Petrus 2009 at Hedonism? Go to Corney & Barrow, and you can pick it up for £3,202.59. Not exactly cheap, but it’s not £4,279.80, is it? Over £1000 cheaper. A 25% discount; and unlike Sainsbury’s, you don’t even have to buy six bottles to get it.

(And unlike Hedonism, Corney & Barrow actually sounds like a wine merchant, and not a moral failing.)

And for peasants like us, on Clos19, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is £24. Yes, LVMH own that ubiquitous Cloudy Bay, which they must be embarrassed to see being sold at Tesco and Sainsbury. And at only £21 – that’s 12.5% cheaper. Buy half a dozen and you’ll get another £1 off. And it can’t be long before they knock 25% off six bottles, and you’ll get it for 16 quid or thereabouts.

Of course I realise it would be difficult to go to a supermarket. You know, it’s one of those big buildings on the outskirts? Before the airport? You’d have to wear the gardener’s clothes and, unless you want to discover what the bodywork’s like underneath the paint, go in the nanny’s car rather than take the Ferrari.

But you would get more than 30% off! Don’t these kind of percentages mean anything to the wealthy, unless they’re linked to an equity report? What it must be to have more money than sense.

I wonder for how long, if they continue to shop like this, these customers can remain considerably richer than yow. Remind me; who is it again, who is soon parted from his money?


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