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What Price Bordeaux? by Benjamin Lewin MW
91 out of 100

Published 21 May 2010


What Price Bordeaux? by Benjamin Lewin MW

If you have ever wondered why some Bordeaux wines achieve incredible prices yet others are cheap gluggers, then this book is for you. Benjamin Lewin looks at the history and economics of Bordeaux to try to understand how the price of Bordeaux is determined and whether it accurately reflect the quality in the wine.
Bordeaux is the largest wine producing region in France with wines that range from the awful to the sublime and a value that has a similar range. But what price is right for a wine? Certainly those from Bordeaux would say that the market would set the price. But how is the market determined? This is the key question that Benjamin attempts to answer. Perhaps disappointingly he does not say whether a price is a sensible one or not, or even pass comment on what prices should be. Benjamin prefers to hide behind prices and, like a good economist, assume that the price at the time is the correct price. Sadly economics assume that the market has perfect information and in top Bordeaux wines, many purchasers rely on incomplete information. I would have preferred more insights along this line. But this is a very subjective area and Benjamin tries to keep to safer, well researched information.
At the very top end Bordeaux is a luxury good with a price that represents its basic supply and demand. At the bottom, the quality is more important to setting price. In this book Benjamin focuses his attention on the very top end, and as such the price is impossible to determine. It is a bit like "how long is a piece of string?". It is what it is. While Benjamin accepts this, he tries to give a background and an understanding to the current eye watering Bordeaux prices of first growths and, to a lesser extent, other Bordeaux wines. He explains the origins of the classification system, the price setting process for en-premier wines, the importance of critics, the difference between the land and the brand, contrasting Bordeaux, where the soils are less important than the marque, with Burgundy where location is king. Benjamin uses a huge range of historical prices neatly depicted in graphs to show historical trends, and moments of over-exuberance in the past with the rather sharp and painful corrections, which can catch all in their sudden change of fortune. Some of the insights Benjamin gives, provide a good insight into the industry, such as how top growers shift risk to negotiants which profit hugely in the good years and can go bankrupt in the poor years.
I did enjoy reading this book and it certainly gives a fresh insight into Bordeaux that many books simply do not cover. There are plenty of graphs and historical prices, with historical price movements being explained. It does not look too far into the future and is more a retrospective look rather than forward looking. Strangely it took me about a month to read, which is not a good sign, some books I can’t put down. This one I found hard to pick up. But I can’t explain why. I liked the book, learnt a lot and will use this as a reference book in my library in future.

In the end I gave it a high rating and it is certainly worth reading. I rated it 91 out of 100.

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