June 22, 2016

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS QUALITY (profanity alert):

The Weird World Of Expensive Wine (Oliver Roeder, 6/22/16, 538)

William Koch -- yes, one of those Kochs -- is giving a tour of his wine cellar when he asks the obvious question: "Did you see the wine bathroom?" he asked. "Wanna see it?"

It's an opulent cellar, replete with Roman mosaics, a Guastavino-style ceiling and a Dionysian bust. The bathroom is, one can't help but assume, where Koch and his guests unzip the flies of tailored Brioni suit pants and catch final glimpses of $1,000 bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux, since metabolized and micturated.

But some of Koch's bottles will now meet different ends. Koch gave a tour of the wine bathroom for a promotional video ahead of the sale of more than 20,000 bottles from his cellar, at Sotheby's, in New York. The sale, which took place over three days last month, fetched $21.9 million, going down as one of the richest wine auctions in history.

I watched the sale's final day unfold, fascinated -- and a little dismayed -- by the wines fetching these handsome sums, where they came from, and where they were going. Questions like that are sparks a FiveThirtyEight writer is obligated to kindle.

Off I went in search of data, and I found it in the form of a juicy, dense spreadsheet containing 140,000 wines from 10,000 producers in 33 countries, and their prices. The data was sent to me by Peter Krimmel, the CTO of Vinfolio, a fine wine retailer. It's wide-ranging, assembled by the company using auction results from 12 major houses, including Sotheby's, representing "the vast majority of the fine wine auction market." For the 140,000 wines covered, it has data on the producer, year (the wine's vintage), bottle size, region, subregion, American Viticultural Area (where applicable), color (red, white or rosé) and price.

After quaffing the data, what I found was a high-end wine market, and a blockbuster auction, with notes of geography, chemistry, economics, culture and thousands of years of history -- with a detectable aroma of b[*******]t. Let's have a taste.

Posted by at June 22, 2016 6:17 PM

  

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