Price is a crucial element in any wine. The price defines the target market and ought to be defined by the cost – the expense incurred by the methods of production and consideration of supply in relation to demand.
Any added cost is purely marketing, and comes into the second of the former points, generally – e.g. whether wines from the region or country are popular in the destination market right now or whether or not some celebrity or some illustrious estate can be named on the bottle.
If this latter point is all-important, that’s when wines can command silly money: sillier than ever, of late, in China, where a new market has created an insatiable demand for what critics consider to be the best Bordeaux.
Beyond the production costs of hand-picking, lavish attentiveness and singing the grapes to sleep on balmy summer nights, it’s all marketing. For all we know, in coming years, a resurgence in popularity for Cliff Richard‘s records (or his semi-pornographic calendars) could drive prices for his Portuguese wines through the roof.
This preamble only serves as an indication that when approaching a wine one knows to be expensive – especially a wine one knows to be more expensive than one would generally buy – it’s hard to shake the dual concerns of cost and price.
Will the wine display any significant additional worth as a result of extra hands-on care in its formative years? Will the smaller bottle numbers justify a bigger number being printed on the price tag? Will the price seem fair?
I’d very much enjoyed another bottle from the same vineyard, made from the same grape – Mencía. But with an RRP of about £20-30 (not silly money, but more than most people will pay for a single bottle of red wine) how much better could this bottle be than the really quite lovely regular Pittacum red that goes for a third of that price?
The answer, unfortunately, is not much.
I caveat this with the point that Pittacum Aurea is a wine with a shelf-life; they recommend letting it lie for up to three years before enjoying. But realistically I was never going to do that, even though I did leave it a good few weeks before deciding I couldn’t appropriately apply the wine-opening to any given special occasion, because I didn’t know what it tasted like.
The press release said it goes with lamb; but so many red wines go with lamb, and one only eats lamb so often: not as often, in my case, as I like to drink wines whose marketers recommend them being served with lamb.
This wine did look amazing. In the decanter, in low and unnatural light, it had an almost solid appearance. Its deep ruby hue played a trick with the reflection of the light, inverting the top of the decanter and giving the appearance of a deep hole in any surface you placed it on. The pictures do not do it justice, and no doubt it’s something that would happen with any sufficiently dark red wine – but it’s odd that I’d never noticed it before.
The thick liquid left a cherry hue around the edges of the glass after swirling, and its almost medicinal aroma of cherry and cloves had a warming and calming effect.
There were discernible notes of fruit in the form of cherry and perhaps a touch of plum, and a definite acidic twang to add to the balance, but the prevailing aftertaste was one of wood – sort of like licking an old bench. It was not unpleasant, but neither was it remarkable. In fact, it was decidedly less impressive than the much cheaper bottle from the same vineyard (and the same grape), which I’d tried only a week or two before.
I’m not really sufficiently experienced to make an accurate prediction of how this might taste after ageing; I gather, all being well, a red wine tends to lose some of its tannic quality over time and display more complex and evolved fruit and wood notes. But how accurately one can predict such unfolding in a wine one barely knows I’m not sure.
In its present state, this wine merely constitutes an underwhelming special edition from a perfectly good existing crop. The other 8,999 bottles may all be laid in cellars around the world accruing greater value of one kind or another – or perhaps they’re being drunk by people who better appreciate subtleties I was blind to.
I only hope their destiny holds more than the mild disappointment this bottle delivered.
The wine is on their website, here; good luck finding a buy-link.