Home / Blog

Icon–one word or two?

Jancis Robinson rarely minces words.  Best known for her popular reference works “The Oxford Companion to Wine”, “Wine Grapes”, and “The World Atlas of Wine” (co-authored with Hugh Johnson), she writes prolifically on all things wine.

wine and moneyIn her weekly column in the Financial Times, Robinson recently fired a broadside at the growing practice of new, unproven winemakers pricing new releases through the roof.  She lambasts a French winemaker from Languedoc, an Aussie, and finally an American, San Francisco sommelier-turned winemaker Raj Parr, who will soon release his first wine at $90 a bottle.

Aside from lack of a track record, Robinson claims these elevated prices have no relation to cost of production, saying “Production costs of even the grandest red bordeaux are rarely more than €10 a bottle, €30 at most if the château is run on bank borrowings.”  This may be true for the larger wineries producing 10,000 bottles and up, but we wonder about the small artisan winemaker producing a few thousand bottles each vintage, while paying for expensive land and equipment. 

Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank wrote that, on average, a winery makes 6.9% pre-tax profit.  This is a pretty skinny margin, and seems at odds with the production costs and average price of a Napa Valley cab.

Expensive Cal Cult wines
What do you think?  Would you pay big bucks for a winemaker’s first effort?  Is this clever marketing or just plain old chutzpah?