There’s a point in certain forms of appreciation where value detaches from the object under scrutiny and attaches to the surrounding milieu, the ability to imbibe augmented by the means to own, the opportunity to acquire, the capacity to describe. In the world of fine wine, I’d suggest that point starts at around fifty quid a bottle; any more is essentially a exponentially-graduated entry fee into an ever more rarefied social circle.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker piece on wine counterfeiting is a case in point, a deliciously understated narrative with hints of Nabakov and Borges. It sketches out the aspirations of one millionaire collector, the intoxicating mixture of glamour and mystery concocted by Hardy Rodenstock, and the collaborative wish-fulfillment of wine masters and Merlot-tinged prose artists for whom the world of untainted vines and Jeffersonian vintages is so enticingly close that one might already have dreamed its taste. Is it surprising that such a milieu would be so ripe for deluding?