I am so over collector-investors!
I was reading Asimov’s blog the other day at The Pour where he talked about a story he’d read in Wine Spectator (you can find the link on his blog) about how one rich collector-investor is suing another rich collector-investor over something or other. (Decanter actually wrote about it too.)
The more I read it, the more I thought, Who cares? And suddenly it hit me:
I AM SOooo OVER COLLECTOR-INVESTORS!!!
I used to cover them for the Spectator back in the day. There was the über-rich Palestinian from La Jolla, the Texan with one of the country’s most massive collections (he eventually became a born-again Christian and gave up drinking), the Chicago medical tool manufacturer who kept his own stash at Fleur de Lys, a clutch of wealthy Memphisites (Mephistos?), the Bay Area dentist who spent $30,000 on a party for his wine-drinking friends, the Central Coast guy who had every vintage of Mouton-Rothschild made in the last 150 years, the University of California professor who gave America’s greatest tastings, the Hollywood producer who shacked up with a major star, and so on. These guys loved getting their names and, better yet, their pictures in the Spectator, so they gave me access.
I respected their knowledge and passion, and most of them actually were very nice people. But when I left Spectator for Wine Enthusiast, they stopped returning my phone calls — literally overnight. I realized that whatever relationships I’d thought we’d had were fantasies on my part. They had no use for me once I couldn’t get them into W.S. They were, in the truest sense, snobs.
Those vestigial memories were resurrected, unpleasantly, when I read Eric’s blog. But something else left a sour taste in my mouth, and it was this: Not only am I over collectors, but the very notion of collecting for investment seems somehow anachronistic and vulgar to our times and sensibility. And so does covering collecting, in the journalistic sense, with those awful charts about auction bottle prices, as if wine were pork bellies. Maybe some people get off on that stuff, but I think most people read wine magazines to read about wines, winemakers, wine regions and so on.
Who cares what Lafite went for at the latest Christie’s auction? Have you ever bought Lafite at an auction? Neither have I. Do you think you ever will? Neither do I. Do you know anyone who has? Neither do I. I’m glad Christie’s and all the others exist and provide jobs for people, but the whole notion of wine as an investment commodity, which is repugnant enough, is made all the more distasteful for the state of the economy, when so many people are hurting. I’m sure conspicuous consumption will always exist, but why give it attention and even praise? These “collectors” are marginalized outliers, and the results of their venal activities need not concern the true wine lover.
Look: Collecting wine for the sake of properly aging it is a beautiful thing. Everybody should do it, to the extent they have the space and can afford to. But collecting for the sake of trading at auction isn’t really collecting; it’s hoarding.
Anyway, forgive the rant. Had to get that off my chest. Tomorrow, a more pleasant topic.