Saturday, March 5, 2011

Retirement Complications - The Chinese Factor

Once again I find inspiration for my post in the Time magazine that arrived in today’s mail. Regular readers of RetirementSparks will have noticed more than an occasional reference to my enjoyment of a nice glass of wine. Preferably red.

There was also my New Year’s confession that I don’t really drink as much as I make it sound, but that I expect to have more opportunities to sit back with a glass of vino once I’m retired. I’ve even budgeted the added expense (partly under medical, you may recall.)

Now comes a wake up call that I may have to redo that budget yet again, and it’s all because of what I will call the “Chinese Factor.” It seems the Chinese have developed a taste for high-end red wines. According to Time, at a recent Sotheby’s auction, one bidder from China “paid $232,000 each for three bottles of 1869 Château Lafite Rothschild.”

I know what you’re thinking: Why should I care? It’s not like buying Château Lafite Rothschild is on my bucket list. Well, you’ll want to put a cork in it when you read this next item. At the same auction (held in Hong Kong) someone paid $70,000 for a case of 2009 Lafite, which hasn’t even been bottled yet. According to Time, the price represented about a 300% increase over the pre-auction estimate.

On its own, this news would not send me dashing to my retirement spreadsheet. Apparently, the Chinese yen for fine Bordeaux is driving up prices of those wines across the board (and around the world.) So the Lafite is bound to be just the tip of the wine bottle.

Though my preference is for Italian reds, I will not be lulled into a false sense of security. According to Time (or more correctly, Vinexpo, a trade show) Asian wine consumption is growing at four times the global average. You don’t get that type of growth without some experimentation (and trickle down.) That means price inflation will eventually hit other varieties. Once the Chinese taste a good Barolo, you can forget finding a decent one for under $100 a bottle.

If you hear the phrase “the wine bubble,” don’t think Asti Spumante, think dotcom. For my sake, and for other wine-loving retirees, we can only hope that Chinese bubble will burst soon, while wine prices are still where we can afford something other than Night Train. Or Auntie Em’s homemade sherry. Blech.

1 comment:

Ann Neff said...

Hey Elaine, down here we have a burgeoning wine industry. Big town nearby not named Vineland for nothing. Lotsa Italians settled there. Come get it before it gets shipped to China!