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Second Wines, Bargains or a Con?

I have read through this and I am left wondering are second wines a ‘con’ as they become more and more expensive.

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Maybe not a con, but good value? Not in my opinion, but I suppose that’s the case for any wine that can also be classed as an investment. This paragraph says it all.

“In 2007, it was possible to buy 6.6 bottles of a second wine for every bottle of grand vin,” says Millar. “Today that has been cut to 2.8 bottles, and it is at this point that the Second Wine 50 index has started to falter.”

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My most helpful “second wine” tip was to buy Rosso di Montepeluciano in lesser vintage years when they don’t make the Vino Nobile.

Apart from that, the last times I was tempted by 2nd wines were EPs of Clos du Marquis 2005, now retails at £70 ish - I would have paid about 15 at the time, and Pavillon Rouge 2004 now retailing at a silly £150, and I paid under 20 at the time. Still a few of each left…

But those sort of bargains have long gone now.

Just so you know I’m not fibbin’

and whaddyaknow, as I was ferreting around my fridge I discovered one of these - thought I’d drunk them all ages ago…

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Gosh, I remember working in Bottoms Up 35 years or so ago and Carruades de Lafite was retailing at about £22.

(My memory could be slightly wobbly here, lot of wine under the bridge since then and all!)

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That article really only looked at second wines as possible investment vehicles and seemed to conclude that outside the hallowed 1st growth second wines they didn’t really perform. Well, I’m fine with that as I want to drink them!

In my view some second wines are excellent value whilst others keep pushing their price up and have become much less so. There are, in my view, a number of very good, very reasonably priced second wines such as Marquis de Calon, Les Fiefs de la Grange, Reserve de Leoville Barton. But others are ramping up their prices with little relative ramping up of quality such as Segla and, maybe, Baron de Brane. Don’t get me wrong those two are great wines but I don’t think they deserve their recent price hikes.

My view is that the top wines are not top purely because of the location of the vines; I reckon much is down to how the vines are looked after, how the yield is controlled, and the skill and care of the winemaker(s). With a second wine you might be getting grapes from younger vines or maybe vines grown on slightly less auspicious plots of ground, but they are sill being grown and processed by the same people with the same skills as the first wines. So, as long as the price is sensible, I think they can be excellent value (just not for investing, please!).

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A bottle of Clos du Marquis from a terrible Bordeaux vintage retailed at Victoria Wine was a terrific bottle.
This is why OFF vintages CAN BE where smart drinkers go for their wine!! :wink: :dragon:

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So where does that leave 3rd & 4th wines. And yes, they exist - sometimes under a true name and otherwise under a thinly veiled nom de plume. (TWS Pauillac Ulysse perhaps?)

As an aside… when I used to visit France, typically a Vigneron made several quality levels of wine… and the absolute best were never available except at cellar door. I was told they were produced in such low volumes and became too expensive once middle-men mark-ups were factored in.

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That’s a very good question. I guess the same answer holds. If they are priced sensibly they may be very good value. Certainly I think the Pauillac Ulysse is a very good wine, though maybe at around £22 it’s only good rather than exceptional value.

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It’s a slightly different issue, but I have encountered a 2nd wine as a con, or at best very unprofessional behaviour. Do you remember @robertd? I’m pretty sure you were there too, at the Blue Boar.

Pavillon Rouge du Châteaux Margaux was on a restaurant list with the “Pavillon Rouge du” coveniently omitted. And when it was shown to me for approval before opening, the “Pavillon Rouge du” was equally conveniently covered by a hand. Only when it was clear I intended to closely examine the label was the hand removed.

I politely declined, pointing out that the list was deceptive. I kept it polite as I did feel a little guilty for trying to exploit what could have been a genuine pricing error.

I finally got to taste the Grand Vin as a 1984 bought from TWS - affordable as it was one of the worst vintages known to man, and bin-ended. It was good, but unexceptional.

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I do remember the occasion, Steve, though I’d forgotten which First Growth it was. Pretty shabby, and the Blue Boar is no more. Not sure how related the two things are…

Second wines seem to be a thing of Bordeaux and their lookalike.
Elsewhere there’s premium cuvée, individual vineyard and variety. They seem to fill their quality ladders with more variety rather than a similar but lesser thing of the top level.
Not sure if it better but I suspect the commercial drivers are different.

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I would not have mentioned the restaurant’s name if it were still open or recently closed

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