Fine wine. What does that really mean?
The truth is, as words, they don’t mean much. There is no official classification system for the title “fine wine.” It’s not like the regulated usage of “Premier Cru” or “Grand Cru Classé,” for example, rather anyone can throw it out there and see if it sticks.
However, as a concept, “fine wine” does indeed have substance, directing us to wines so wonderful that we built a whole business off of their investment and preservation. Because at Alti Wine Exchange, we are wholly vested in offering the best rare and fine wines on the market.
So, again, what does that mean?! To help you better understand the concept of truly fine wine, here are some key points to consider when wading through the sea of sameness to find greatness:
- Limited Production. Fine wine will never be mass-produced. There simply aren’t enough quality grapes in a single quality place to create an infinite source of fine wine. Take our newest offering, for example. The Quinta Do Vallado Adelaide 2014 had a production of 4,200 bottles, of which we were able to procure 120 bottles. Adding to its quality is the fact that Adelaide is only produced in exceptional vintages. It’s not a wine you’re going to find every single year. Now, just because production is limited doesn’t mean the wine will be fine, but when combined with additional points below, you’ll be well on your way to making a proper assessment.
- Quality Fruit. You can have good grapes and make bad wine, but you cannot make good wine without quality grapes. Behind a fine wine, you will always find a passionate winemaking team focused on what happens in the vineyards just as much as (if not more than) what happens in the cellar. Quality grapes often come from producers that practice organic/sustainable viticulture, and they almost always harvest by hand for a rigorous selection of quality right from the start. In areas with more investment, such as Bordeaux, producers will go a step further by using optical sorting tables. The technology is fascinating and allows a winemaker to calibrate the electroluminescent diodes to pick only berries with the perfect color, texture and organic structure.
- Quality Terroir. Fine wine comes from a place with near-perfect conditions for the vines planted upon its land. Why does Burgundy grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir? Because its moderate continental climate combines with gorgeous slopes of poor, shallow soils of limestone and clay to create a terroir in which those varieties thrive. Oh sure, there’s a mix of quality when it comes to Burgundy, but we can all agree that the finest wines are Grand Cru, with vines planted mid-slope to protect them from the worst weather and provide ample sunlight interception.
- Consistency. Practice makes perfect, and once a winery earns a reputation for making fine wines, they are going to do everything they can to live up to their name. For example, we offer an 1888 Port from Quinta do Vallado. They already had a name at the time of production and are still revered today for their incredible quality. Consistency is key.
- Verbiage. This point applies more to European wines, as their wine classification systems are highly regulated–unlike the “New World,” where you can slap Grand Reserve on the label without any repercussions. In Rioja, Gran Reserva requires that the wine be aged for at least five years, with 2+ years in barrels for reds, and six months for whites. A simple wine would not be worth such a major investment, therefore you can expect a much higher quality. It’s not foolproof, but European classification systems can help in maneuvering the murky waters of quality. The problem is that each region has its own rules, so you’ll have to study to get a good grasp of all the label verbiage.
- Cost. It is what it is, and most fine wines are going to command a pretty penny. Again, we’re dealing with the best quality fruit coming from the most coveted lands, years of experience, and very limited supply.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, and “fine” is subjective, but overall, the above points are a great guide to finding fine wine.
But what is fine wine without proper care? You must always remember that wine is a living, breathing liquid, and storage is of utmost importance. That’s why we house all of our wines at the Bordeaux City Bond wine vault, which is devoted to the storage of fine and rare wines with temperature control and special lighting. And if you invest with us, your wine will remain there, safe and sound, until you want to drink it or decide to trade.
Ready to get started on your fine wine journey? Check out our recent post on the Top 10 Wines for Investing Today!