We were shooting a video at Tria Café last year, for their 10th Anniversary, and Co-Owner Michael McCaulley said something to me that really left an impression:
“Wine is the only time machine that works.”
The words weren’t his, but those of a French winemaker he once met. The French always have such a way with words. I love it.
This morning, I was having a separate conversation with an old music buddy. He sent me a link to this video about the rare Martin D-100 guitar that costs $100K. What impressed us was the part at around 5:40 where the host talks about why you would buy a guitar that costs so much, and what could possibly justify the price.
It Ain't Always About the Price Tag
In a nutshell, it wasn’t about the price tag, but the opportunity to experience something that is so rare, so once-in-a-lifetime, that the number on the price tag is not the true value. Is it over the top? Sure. Is it beyond the reach of most people in the world? Probably. But for those who can indulge, it’s an interactive experience that tantalizes the senses with unparalleled craftsmanship, quality, beauty and art. You’ll never touch another one like it in this lifetime.
The video got me thinking more about the value of wine. I don’t typically drink expensive wines, and I’m not a collector (if you want to know what motivates some people to collect and invest in wines, I shed a little light on that here in this blog post). For the most part, my wife and I drink wines priced under $20 a bottle. Occasionally we’ll pony up for something pricier, but I don’t think we’ve ever spent more than $200 in the decade-plus that we’ve been drinking wine.
If 200 bones still sounds like a lot of money to you (and it is), I’ll try to justify that, if possible. For those who can, or those who care, buying expensive wine can be viewed in the same way as playing that exquisite Martin D-100. It’s an experience of a lifetime, something you don’t just possess, but immerse yourself in. Really, no different than dropping $500 to go see a favorite band play in Madison Square Garden. No different than paying thousands to take in Europe for a week.
The true value of a thing often depends on your abilty to get the most out of it (which is why I aim to help people get more out of the glass).
What You're Really Paying For
Is wine is the only time machine that works? Think about it. There are very few, if any other food products out there that can still be enjoyed or consumed 10, 25, 50 or even 100 years after they’ve been made. With classic wine, the hands that touched those grapes and bottled the juice, in some cases, did their work long before we were even born.
For the artists amongst us, we can even go one step further and ask, “When does a thing transcend being just a thing, and cross over into the realm of art?” Can food be art (this writer thinks not)? Can the process of making wine be considered an art? Many think so.
If you look at what it takes to get that wine into the bottle, from start to finish, and think about how many things had to coincide to make that happen, it may not be art, but it certainly is amazing. When you think about the fact that those grapes might have been fermenting during the Second World War, or as we first set foot on the moon, it's even more magical.
Looking at it that way, does it change your feelings about rare, old or expensive wines? What time in history would you like to travel back to? Feel free to share your thoughts.