More than diamonds, more than gold…What price vinous history?

On Monday night, the 3rd of October, I’ll be having dinner with Vicente, the Count of Creixell, at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant ‘Dinner’ to celebrate the launch of Ygay’s 100 point white Rioja. 

However, there has been some, perhaps unjustified (?), controversy surrounding the release price of this ultra rare wine. To private clients, they would expect to pay around £275-£300 per bottle underbond ex-taxes… with a shop recommended retail price of between £400 to £450 inc taxes.

Even Luis Gutierrez, the Spanish Wine Advocate reviewer, who awarded the perfect 100 points to the 1986 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Blanco, ended his review proclaiming that despite his score, he would not be taking his own personal allocation of this wine “due to the high release price.”

The whole saga kind of reminds me of the press and industry storm when Stellenbosch producer De Toren released their maiden Book XVII 2010 Bordeaux blend at circa £180 per bottle in the UK… a price never before seen for a South African current release wine.

Whether or not you like the Ygay 1986 or the Book XVII, are these producers being unfairly singled out for critisicm or should they be applauded for pushing boundaries? De Toren certainly led with glass ceiling breaking pricing, where many more producers in SA now follow today.

Every year, mass produced Bordeaux growths are released at eye watering prices while small scale production white and red Burgundies are regularly released at 3 figure prices…with not even a murmur from the market or consumers. The market has obviously become used to these ultra premium levels for certain regions, but not for others. 

The top wines from the finest producers in Spain, many with extended aging for ‘historic releases’, have long been under priced and the market is finally waking up to this fact… and so prices are rising fast, both for ‘new’ producer releases like Ygay 1986 and in the secondary broking market for back vintages of rarities like those from Castillo Ygay, Vega Sicilia and Lopez de Heredia.

With regards to the very top Spanish whites and reds, I predicted this impending siesmic price shift years ago. On the day the Cape Winemaker’s Guild Auction in Cape Town broke R13m rand (£750,000) for the first time, could this be the first tremors of real change in the pricing of SA’s top wines? I reckon it’s certainly the beginning… whether end consumers like it or not.

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