Thursday 18 July 2019

Untold Wealth: Romanée-Conti

So last week PK was giving a shout-out to Auberon Waugh who, in turn, was giving a dismissive  shrug to Romanée-Conti, a wine too expensive to drink - and what do you know, but our pals with the superstylish house in southern France are coming over for some nosh and the husband sends me a cheeky email announcing that he's got a Jeroboam of Romanée-Conti 2001 Grand Cru and should he bring it over? Kismet, I think to myself. He also appends a flyer from one of his posh wine merchants to explain just what a startling beverage this is, plus pictures, just in case I was in the dark.

Well, even I have heard of Romanée-Conti, so naturally I tell him to bring it without a shadow of a doubt and actually spend five minutes wondering if my crap Paris goblet wine glasses are really going to do justice to the wine or whether I should nip out and get some proper ones. I then re-read the email, this time adding on all the noughts to the Romanée-Conti asking price which I overlooked the first time round. The bottle in question seems to come in at £130,000 in bond, so I at last work out that this is just a tease rather than a serious offer; although, that said, the pals are quixotic/generous/bonkers enough to do something like bring round a bottle of Romanée-Conti, just for fun, and if anyone was going to gift me a six-figure bottle of wine, it would be them rather than, say, PK.

Only now I am bugged by the idea of a single bottle of wine, even a really big one, costing as much as a Bentley. Hugh Johnson, in my ancient edition of the World Atlas of Wine, notes of the Romanée-Conti family of wines, 'For the finesse, the velvety warmth combined with a suggestion of spice and the almost oriental opulence of their wines the market will seemingly stand any price', which sounds about right. But even allowing for the magnificence of a bottle of Romanée-Conti in any size, what's the point of pricing it so that the price becomes an end in itself? Yes, lots of things are bought for their investment potential, not excluding property, paintings, Warner Bros., Hermann Goering's memorabilia, champion livestock; but in the main you can do something with these things while they appreciate. But a bottle of wine? 'An investment bond,' as Waugh put it? If you'e not drinking it or at least planning to drink it, where's the fun? Do you just stare at the label and that's enough?

Or is the point to be so inhumanly rich that the fun lies in the obscenity of knocking back something which would keep scores of families out of poverty then non-figuratively pissing it away a couple of hours later? Or, rather, to identify it as an obscenity but at the same time detach oneself affectlessly from the demands of the real world and float above it? I could sort of just about imagine the kind of moral putrefaction which might interpret that as an okay way to spend your time; and, if nothing else, it would sit nicely with a comparably value-garbling Jeff Koons, the wine and the artwork, there in your Knightsbridge condominium. I could see that. But would the drink taste better, the same, or worse than any other drink you might consume that day? Or are you so rich that there is no better or worse, only a kind of null perfection? This is doing my crust in.

Actually, all my brush with Romanée-Conti points to is the fact that I still don't understand the relationship between price and market value, believing, at heart, that the price of things reflects the value of things.This is at least one reason why I am not rich. On the other hand, our pals, who are a lot richer than me, turned up, not with a Romanée-Conti but with a bottle of cold pink Crémant de Bourgogne. And it was delicious.



  1. Natural justice in a way - that Crémant could have been made from the fruit that didn't come up to Romanée-Conti standard....


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