Photo by Fast Forward Event Productions/Flickr CC
At least once a year, I like to attend a wine tasting at Sotheby's to remind myself that there is no shortage of multi-hundred-dollar wines that I don't like. On a recent Thursday evening, when about 30 bottles were opened ahead of Saturday's Nov. 14 auction, I sidled up to the red Burgundy table to try various offerings from the 1996 vintage (which was a celebrated one). I had a dry and tart Clos Vougeot, which can be bought online for about 200 dollars, and was left thinking I wouldn't pay a tenth of that. That night, which was heavy on French offerings, only an Italian wine, a 1990 Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello, stood out. On Saturday, a nine-bottle lot sold for $1,573, but I've had Brunellos that sell for a quarter of the price that I've enjoyed more. (I still remember fondly, however, a 20-odd-year-old Caymus Special Selection Cabernet I had at an earlier pre-auction tasting.)
I highly recommend wine enthusiasts attend pre-auction tastings at Sotheby's and Christie's, if they have the opportunity. They're not heavily advertised--you have to monitor the houses' wine departments online--but there's probably not a better or cheaper way to sample a wide variety of fine wines. Thursday's event cost $75--roughly the price of the cheapest of the bottles they opened.