Australia's Most Expensive Wine on Release: 2008 Penfolds Bin 620 & the Twitter debate that followed.
Hey, at least it's under screwcap!
Twitter is a funny thing at times. It can spark debate, encourage conversation, and, on occasion, bore you to tears with the mundane. Then, every now and then, it generates true, open and honest discussion on a range of issues and engages all, who care to dabble, in true issues that face the industry (& other) often at bizarre times. Twitter is not 9 till 5; it's 24/7.
Much to my wife's annoyance, I've gotten into the habit of checking twitter prior to going to sleep … and in bed; who knows what I might have missed. And I'm so glad that I do as the other night I happened upon some tweets from the launch of the new 2008 Penfolds Bin 620. Yes, the one that's been launched at $1000 a bottle in Shanghai, China.
Now before we get into the discussion, I should clarify for those who may have joined in on the conversation at a later stage. Penfolds have just released a wine for $1000 in Shanghai, China; the Bin 620 which is the first time since 1966. Why, because "Our special bin wines are only made in exceptional vintages with exceptional parcels of fruit,"
Now, I've been lucky enough to try the wine though when I did, I had no idea of the price. It was a secret. Below is my tasting note from a tasting at Penfolds earlier in the year – it's unedited and was done on the fly so forgive it if it's not fancy.Seems to be aromatically the sum of it's parts with the ripe, fresh, fragrance of dark fruited Shiraz and the herbal, structural backbone of cabernet. Palate builds with weight, power and structure that is almost muscley. This is big and whilst heavy set and structured, the tannins tie it together, interwoven, interlaced, silky even. Pretty epic and wow, very good. Actually, I could finish more than a glass of this; several even. Long and lingering indeed. Very impressive. I really like.
Yes, I clearly liked it so no question of quality from me.
My real issue with the Bin 620 is not the wine, and not really the price; I really don't care how much it is. Where I do have a problem is the over the top adulation, from some, about the 'authenticity' and 'story' and about how unbelievably important it is for Australia to have such a wine. The quality of the wine in undeniable, it's excellent, but don't wrap it up and serve it to me in a blanket of spin declaring 'authenticity' and 'story'. It just feels like money making and capitalising/pandering to the Chinese market. To steal a word from @winehero's
latest post, 'Opportunism'.
This is a wine aimed at the Chinese market and if you doubt me, read this article in The Age
. Basically a press release it states that yes, this was a wine released for the Chinese market and deliberately pitched at the high end. It's about marketing and the positioning of Penfolds as the premium Australian wine brand in China; and you know what, that's fine. They've certainly done the yards, no?
Though don't take it from me, this is direct from Penfold's Global brand director, Sandy Mayo."This is the most expensive wine on release that we've had," Ms Mayo said. She said demand for Penfolds was accelerating around the world, including Asia. "That's why we are in China now and why we're launching this wine in China."
and then later states in the article …"A wine like Special Bin 620 is adding to that level of aspiration."
Yes, it does, therefore increasing interest, raising the price and increasing revenue. So yes, this release, launched in China, is about making money and capitalising on demand. And as I said before, fine. So when I read tweets, from some at the launch, telling all of whom that cared to follow that 'it's about credibility & the story' … 'authenticity' … '2008 was an exceptional vintage in Coonawarra' (BTW, wasn't it super, super hot?)
, 'each grape is worth $1.50', I can't help but cringe. It's just feels like sycophantic pandering.
The ensuing twitter debate quickly lost track of my initial issue of spin/pandering, not necessarily price. Calls of 'why can't Australia charge this much' and comments like 'Aust wine not always seen as high quality', 'perception of quality in China is determined by price' and we should basically be thankful for wineries such as Penfolds & Torbreck for charging huge amounts for their wine so it will make everything better. Really?
Many chimed in though Mr Mike Bennie's
comment (one of many for that matter), for me, hit the mark saying '...fitting wine to a market is how Australia got into current trouble'. Yes, I couldn't agree more. Shouldn't we learn from our mistakes?
Yes, China is an incredibly important market, and yes, it is providing opportunities to Australian wineries and no, I certainly don't pretend to be an expert on the country (follow @winehero
for that), but come on! If $1000 is supposed to set the bar for 'high quality' Australian wine, I guess the likes of Clonakilla, Mt Langi, Cullen, Oakridge, Yabby Lake, Shaw & Smith, Spinifex, Voyager Estate, De Bortoli, Kooyong, Tyrrell's, Vasse Felix, and a host of many, many, many more are just supermarche wine, right? They most certainly are not.
So in reality, what does this all mean to us here at home? Nothing or everything? Or just a bunch of airtime to a wine in which we will never see nor drink but read about in wine articles, press releases, wine auctions and one day, perhaps, 'aspire' too.
Not me. But each to their own, I suppose.For a different perspective & more eloquent insights, check out @winehero's post on the subject HERE.