Twenty Dollar Bill Wines

My new book Extreme Wine is now officially available and Wine-Searcher.com has just published an excerpt, so you can get a sense of the book’s style and content, both of which will be familiar to regular Wine Economist readers.

The editors at Wine-Searcher picked part of Chapter 4, which is titled “The Invisible Wine” and deals with wines that are for various reasons so scarce (or in some cases so ubiquitous) that they are nearly invisible. I probe a number of extremes in this chapter, but the editors asked to reprint the section on “Twenty Dollar Bill Wines.”  Here’s how the piece begins …

Twenty-dollar-bill wines don’t really cost twenty dollars, so you can put your wallet away. The name comes from a joke that is popular among economists and therefore essentially unknown to the rest of the world. The joke goes like this.

A non-economist walks into a bar and says excitedly to the bartender (who is an economist). ‘Wow, this is my lucky day! I just found a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk in front of your bar!’ The bartender takes a long look at the fellow, who is waving the bill in the air. ‘No, you didn’t,’ he says. ‘Yes, I did!’ replies the customer. ‘See, it’s right here!’ ‘Can’t be—you’re wrong,’ the economist-bartender coolly replies. ‘You’re ignoring rational economic theory. If there had been a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk, someone would have already picked it up. So it is logically impossible that you could have found one.’

‘But look—here it is!’ the customer exclaims. ‘Look, buddy,’ the bartender says, turning away, ‘What do you think I’m going to believe—your bill or my theory?’

The joke of course (sorry, but economists always explain jokes, even the obvious ones) is that economists tend to believe their theories even when they can clearly see refuting evidence with their own eyes. You would think that this makes economists different from regular folks, but in the case of rare wines, we are all pretty much the same.

There are many ‘cult’ wines that are famous for being impossible to buy. They are so scarce, the story goes, that they are all invisibly absorbed by the lucky few folks who years ago gained access to the wine-club distribution list. No one else ever gets a shot. They are as rare as rare can be. I call these the twenty-dollar-bill wines because if you saw one (at a wine shop or on a restaurant wine list), you would probably rub your eyes. Impossible! How could that be? Must be a mistake (or maybe a fake!). If they really had that wine for sale, they would already have sold it.

Now the dirty little secret of these wines is that they are sometimes quite reasonably available, but the myth of impossible scarcity is maintained because that’s how myths work and because no one can believe their eyes. …

Click here to go to Wine-Searcher.com to read the rest of the selection.

By the way, if you still think of Wine-Searcher only as a website that provides information on particular wines, their ratings, prices and availability (see this search for Opus One, for example), then you need to think again because the editors have created a really exciting website with news, features and a wide range of other wine enthusiast information.

There’s more to Wine-Searcher than the searcher part, so you should check it out. (And, yes, they do also publish my column on wine investment, so I have filed this post under “Shameless Self-Promotion.)

Thanks to Wine-Searcher for publishing the Twenty Dollar Bill wine excerpt. Enjoy!

No Snifferati or Spitterati: Extreme Wine Countdown

I’m counting the days and hours until the October 7 official release day for my new book Extreme Wine.  But I have a secret: I think some of the online retailers are already selling and shipping it. Check it out.

One of the fun things you get to do in the final stages of producing a book is to ask a few people to read your work and, if they choose, to write a “book blurb” for the back cover.

After all the hours hunched over a keyboard, it is great to finally hear what people think! We managed to squeeze in six blurbs from extreme wine people on five continents.  Hey, I guess that bit in the subtitle about “searching the world” isn’t just a marketing line!

Extreme Wine Blurbs

This book is not for the snifferati and spitterati. It is an incredible and balanced study of the extremities of the wine world and wines of the world. Veseth even found our 600 bottles of extreme wine made in South Africa.
— Emil Den Dulk, owner, De Toren Private Cellar, South Africa

Extreme Wine is a must-read for wine lovers and people in the wine industry. It helps me to look at the industry from various unique angles. I found myself jotting down idea after idea while reading the book—of which many are now part of my plan for promoting Grace Vineyard in China. Highly recommended!
— Judy Leissner, CEO, Grace Vineyard, China

Congratulations to Mike Veseth for his outstanding book on the global wine world. It takes a very creative mind and a keen eye to see the center from the ‘extreme’ edges without distorting reality. It is a book that grabs you from the very beginning and once you start reading, you can hardly leave it before reaching its end.
— Aldo Biondolillo, Tempus Alba, Argentina

A provocative, engaging, and seriously entertaining journey covering all the vineyards under the sun. Mike Veseth provides a delightful sensory experience that will greatly increase the reader’s enjoyment of wine.
— Cobus Joubert, Maison Joubert, South Africa

Extreme Wine is as broad as it is fascinating, with Mike Veseth’s always perceptive insights into what makes the world of wine tick. His book is a must read for all of us who eat, sleep, and breath the rich and wonderful life of wine, and it opens its hidden extremes to the novice who might otherwise wonder why we find it so immensely rewarding.
— Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO, Broadbent Selections, United States

Thanks to Mike Veseth, readers will discover and understand the philosophy that leads each producer to create his or her own wines. All our family is very proud to be considered ‘extreme wine’ people!
— Giuseppe and Rafaella Bologna, owners, Braida Winery (maker of Bricco dell’Uccellone), Italy

Positive Early Reviews!

A couple of early reviews are already in. Click here to read Ken Umbach’s comprehensive Amazon.com reader review. Booklist and Library Journal have also published favorable reviews, which I will copy below. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to write a review or leave a comment!

No wine-making or wine-selling professional can afford to ignore Veseth’s blog, which illuminates wine’s often murky economics. Here he expounds on wine’s outliers, revealing those wines that have unusual histories, are particularly expensive or cheap, or are made under the most difficult conditions. Taking what could be an esoteric subject and making it compelling for any wine drinker, Veseth probes the best and worst that the world’s vineyards produce. He chronicles booms and busts, relating how Prohibition actually became a boon for vineyards as home winemakers of the era snapped up grapes by the case for cross-country shipment. Explaining the impact of international currency markets, he documents how Australia’s strong dollar has dampened exports. Veseth also details why the cheapest wines aren’t necessarily the worst nor the most expensive the best. Surprisingly, celebrities’ involvement in winemaking has produced some bottlings that transcend the media status of the vineyards’ owners. Not just for geeky wine snobs.
— Booklist

Veseth (Wine Wars), who blogs at the Wine Economist, takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the world’s wines in the titular superlatives. Readers may be familiar with French wines, but get ready to explore Canada’s Icewine (made from grapes frozen to 17 degrees Fahrenheit). These highly concentrated wines (popular in Asia) sell for prices ranging from $50 to $500. Veseth discusses how Prohibition (1920–33) impacted the wine industry (most wineries went out of business) as well as loopholes in the Volstead Act that allowed four million gallons of wine to be legally produced in 1925. The most expensive wine should be no surprise to readers: Bordeaux 2009. What’s the worst wine? Veseth writes, “That’s easy: look down!” Wines can be judged by their prices, with the cheaper wines located at the bottom of the wine shelves. Veseth asserts that celebrity wines such as those made by Yao Ming, Martha Stewart, and Paul Newman don’t necessarily harm the “real wine” industry and, in fact, encourage wine drinkers to try new varieties. VERDICT History buffs and adventurous wine drinkers are sure to find interesting tidbits about the industry and encounter new wines to hunt down. Highly recommended.
— Library Journal

 

Fine Wine: Alternative Asset or Emerging Market?

My friend Rebecca Gibb who edits the online wine magazine at Wine-Searcher.com has invited me to write a periodic column on the fine wine investment market. The first column appears today — follow this link to read it. I survey some summer trends in the wine investment market and then ask whether fine wine is best viewed as an alternative investment like oil and gold as as an “emerging” investment market.

The challenge of writing about wine investment is appealing and I look forward to the opportunity to spend more time studying this fascinating intersection of wine and economics. But what sort of column should it be?

I don’t want to write that Paul Krugman calls “up and down” economics. You know, Chateau this down in today’s auction, chateau that up on the Liv-Ex ticker. Besides, the auction houses and trading platforms already provide lots of this sort of information. No comparative advantage for me there.

So analysis and interpretation is what I will try to provide. And a bit of perspective, too, both in terms of time frame (not sure how frequently I will write on this, so I will take time to digest the incoming news) and economic interest. Much of what you see about fine wine investment comes from inside the market bubble, written by people with a dog in the fight. I’ll try to provide an outsider view.

How will this work out? Will I find interesting stories to tell? Will Wine-Searcher’s readers think they are useful? Too soon to tell — that’s what I think. But I would appreciate it if you’d check out today’s column and let me know what you think.

I’d also appreciate your ideas about where I should focus my magnifying glass in the future. Cheers!

Who Should Be The Voice of Wine Wars?

I’ve just learned that Audible.com is going to produce an audio book version of Wine Wars. They are interested in my opinion about who should read the book — what kind of voice would be best for Wine Wars?

I’m not sure, so I thought I would ask you, my readers. Should the voice be young or old? Male or female?  Should the reader have an accent of some sort — British, French, Spanish, Italian?  Is there a particular person’s voice that you’d like to hear?

Please use the comments section below to let me know what you think.  I don’t know if Audible.com will take your advice,  but if they respond to a particular comment I will send that person an autographed book (your choice of Wine Wars, Extreme Wine when it is published or Globaloney 2.0).

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes at The Wine Economist


Things are ch-ch-changing a little bit here at The Wine Economist: stepping down, moving up and shifting gears.

I’m stepping down from my “day job” as the Robert G Albertson Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound and moving up to the title of Professor Emeritus . This will give me a bit more time to think, talk and write about the business of wine — shifting The Wine Economist project (this blog, my books and speaking engagements)  into a higher gear.

I’m not really retiring or even slowing down, just ch-ch-ch- … you know what I mean!

I’m going to miss my students of course — especially the wonderful young people in my popular course on The Idea of Wine. That show will go on without me, however, because my colleague and fellow wine economist Professor Pierre Ly is taking over and adding his own twist. Pierre and his partner Professor Cynthia Howson have started up a research project about industrial upgrading in the Chinese wine industry — look for “guest post” reports here later in the  year.

I couldn’t give up working with students entirely, of course, so I have agreed to continue as the faculty advisor to the university’s Matelich Scholarship for dynamic young leaders. And of course I have my treasured network of former students, many of whom have ended up in the wine industry where, ch-ch-changing places, they now teach me as I once taught them.

I plan to take advantage of my new flexibility to travel and speak during parts of the year when classes would have previously kept me close to home. The first big trip is to talk at Savour Australia 2013 in September. There are plans to return to South Africa in 2014 and then … who knows? Any suggestions?

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Thanks to everyone who sent me congratulatory cards and notes. Sue and I appreciate your good wishes and look forward to seeing you along the wine road soon!

Christiane Amanpour and Chinese Wine: The Wine Economist Interview

I was pleased to be interviewed the award-winning  journalist Christiane Amanpour earlier this week for her  “Around the World with Christiane Amanpour” report on ABC.com.  The original topic was set to be last week’s French wine auction, where odd lots and “too-expensive-to-serve” bottles from the Elysee Palace cellars were sold off to pay for more modestly priced wines to serve at state events  (with a bit left over to pay down the French national debt).

The auction was a success (buyers snapped up wines that became famous by the publicity surrounding the auction), but Ms. Amanpour, perhaps sensing that this had already become old news, shifted the conversation to another wine topic.  Click on the image below to view the interview.

china

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Thanks to Mary-Rose, David and of course Christiane Amanpour for their work on this interview.

Extreme Wine South Africa: VinPro Information Day 2014

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be returning to South Africa early next year to speak at VinPro Information Day on January 23, 2014. (You can read the agenda for the 2013 Information Day program here.)

VinPro, the service organization for 3600 South African wine producer members, announced yesterday that it will merge with Wine Cellars South Africa, creating a unified wine industry organization.  I’m honored to be invited to speak at the first Information Day program for the combined group and I look forward to meeting everyone and sharing what I know about global market developments while learning more about the dynamic Cape wine sector.

My previous visit to South Africa (to attend Cape Wine 2012 and give the keynote at the Nederburg Auction) was eye-opening — my only regrets were that I didn’t have more time to visit and study the different regions and that Sue wasn’t able to join me. Both of these concerns will be addressed this time as we will spend a couple of weeks touring before Information Day. Still not enough time to do justice to the Cape Winelands, but a big improvement!

We are just beginning to plan our visit. Use the comments section below or write to Mike@WineEconomist.com if you have suggestions of where we should go and what we should do.

Thanks again to VinPro for this opportunity. Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at VinPro Information Day 2014.

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