While Sarah and I were having dinner at Drago, the sommelier (not David Shearin, another guy) asked me what kind of wine I liked since we were having a "free" bottle that I had won. He actually offered to switch it out for something that I might enjoy with our meal, if we weren't feeling the Nero d'Avola. In the ensuing conversation, he mentioned to us that he had just returned from France, and that he had been drinking Grand Cru Saint Emilion Bordeaux for 9 Euro every night. I'm no expert on Bordeaux, and I know that according to Decanter, 2002 was a "modest to decent vintage," but that comment got me thinking.
First, I know that people drink a lot of wine in France. It's more of a part of life than it is in the United States. But this would be a wine in the US that is probably at the least, 30$. Maybe K&L or someone else would have this for cheaper (I find Wally's to be excessivley expensive and precious, ie not worth going too, but if you live on the West side and don't want to go far, or if you want the latest Parker hysteria, hey, knock yourself out. They certainly have an impressive selection of "status-conscious" wine. I bet the stupid chicks from The Hills go their to buy...er...wait they probably get bottle service at the club, they don't drink wine. But whatever, Wally's is where the style cognoscenti go, you know. Maybe the paparazzi should go hang there? So LA!) I digress though--it's basically not an everyday wine. I understand why it's more expensive in the US--it has to be shipped here, there are shipping costs, customs fees, taxes, currency exchange risks, and the importer, wholesaler, and retailer that have to make money off of importing/selling the wine. Everyone takes their cut, and it adds up. If this didn't happen, they wouldn't be able to import/sell wine for all that long and would go out of business (unless they were a bank, or maybe a car company, in which case, they'd just get bailed out by the government and the taxpayers). This doesn't surprise me at all. I know that people have to have an economic incentive to do something. I do purchasing for a living, and I work for a business. I get it. Here's what I don't get--there is practically nothing, I repeat nothing, that you can realistically get in the US that is comparable for the same price.
Is it significantly different cost wise to operate a vineyard/winery in the US? Is it prohibitively expensive to employ people and make wine in France as opposed to the US? My instinct tells me no. There may be differences, and France has a restrictive labor environment, restrictive tax structure, VAT, and a high cost of land, so seriously, what gives? If anything, it's probably more expensive to make wine in France. Oui? Where are the 10$-15$, 7 year old (ie relatively mature), killer wines for drinking with dinner on a Tuesday night on the shelf at the supermarket or your local wine shop that hail from the good old US of A? I don't think that they exist. Sure, you can get great 10ish$ wines--Kung Fu Girl Riesling, or Columbia Crest Estates Merlot, but I'm going to tell you something--they sure as shit are not 7 year old Grand Cru Bordeaux from a decent vintage. So, I'd like to know. Where the fuck are the 7 year old, great drinking, terroir driven wines in the United States for 10-15$. Do they exist? Or am I an insane, blathering idiot?