Most auction news is about cases of ultra-rare, ultra-expensive wine. Are there still any steals to be had?
Always. There’s always value to be found, whether it’s a vintage, a winery or an area. For instance, wines that aren’t the main focus of a collection: Mixed lots [a case of 12 different bottles, for example] can be fun to drink and an incredible value. We had a lot of five bottles—1978 and 1981 Ducru-Beaucaillous, three 1981 Gruaud Laroses—that sold for $49 a bottle recently. [2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou is about $110].
What about the most expensive bottle you’ve ever sold?
Lafite 1869, which we sold in 2010 in Hong Kong. It went for almost $233,000 a bottle. It’s still the most expensive single wine that’s ever been sold at auction. And we sold three of them, one after another, all to the same buyer. That sale was nuts. It was at the peak of the wine-auction frenzy in China. We’d estimated the wine would go for more like $5,000. But I’m not complaining.
For those who don’t feel like spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on one bottle of wine, what would you suggest?
People forget that Bordeaux under $25 can be a really good drink. At our retail store I could find 10 fantastic examples of under-$25 Bordeaux easily; a couple of my favorites are the 2010 Château Barreyre and the 2011 Divin de Corbin. I defy you not to finish either of them! Also, at auctions, consider good but overlooked vintages. With Bordeaux, the ’01s are completely overshadowed by 2000. The 1998 vintage is sort of another lost vintage in terms of the market. And there are some super 2004s that are drinking very well right now, too.
Jamie Ritchie’s 7 Favorite Wines Under $50
1 of 7 | 2013 André Dezat et Fils Sancerre ($22)
"Dezat's very classical Sancerre has been a go-to of mine for more than 25 years. Bone-dry, crisp and bright, it has a flinty Sauvignon Blanc character but is never overbearing."
2 of 7 | 2014 Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay ($23)
"I recently discovered this impressive white—it has lovely richness but also a fresh acidity and minerality that's too often missing from California Chardonnays. It's the kind of wine that disappears quickly once you have the bottle open, so make sure you have another one on hand."
3 of 7 | 2010 Cune Rioja Reserva ($25)
"I bought my mother a case of this Spanish red for Christmas, and it has already disappeared. Cune's wines are incredibly consistent. This reserva delivers a lot of fruit in a really soft, seductive way."
4 of 7 | 2014 Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis ($25)
"Chablis offers some of the best-value white wines around, plus it goes so well with all kinds of seafood and sushi. There's always a bottle of Droin's basic Chablis in my fridge."
5 of 7 | 2012 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco ($32)
"I'm drinking more and more wines from Italy's Piedmont region these days, and particularly from this 52-member co-op. Their straight Barbaresco has a lovely tar, rose and licorice flavor."
6 of 7 | NV R&L Legras Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($33)
"I drink a lot of Champagne—it always puts me in a good mood. I first tasted this one in the 1990s and have been serving it at parties ever since. It's light, elegant and refreshing."
7 of 7 | 2012 Sylvain Pataille Les Longeroies Marsannay ($50)
"I first visited Sylvain Pataille's tiny cellars in Marsannay a couple of years ago. He's a rising star in Burgundy, making wines that are full of fruit but beautifully balanced and elegant. Pure Pinot in the best way!"