The difference between want and need
I like to say wine should be a grocery rather than a luxury. But without question, there is a level of wine that is nothing but a luxury. Let’s face it, wine is seen as a luxury item that is enjoyed primarily by the affluent and privileged. But where do we draw the line between grocery and luxury?
I think one of thing that separates the two is the difference between need and want. There is a big difference between the attitude of having an ordinary bottle of red Bordeaux and having a bottle of Chateau Margaux. That simple red Bordeaux could probably satisfy your thirst and match well with your meal. But just having a bottle of Chateau Margaux is a special treat in itself because it’s something that is noted for its outstanding quality and relative rarity.
This brings me to another difference between grocery and luxury. It’s quality. We all know the marketplace will only bear the high price of a good if that good provides equivalent quality or benefit. No one would spend the higher ticket price for first-class service on an airline if the seat were the same size as coach and the food quality the same. There is also a difference between grocery and gourmet and it’s not only price. It’s in the quality of the product.
Anyone can buy an orange in a store, but to find sweet blood oranges from Sicily is quite a feat. The same difference applies to a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse and a bottle of Montrachet. The quality difference between the two is profound. Montrachet is more intense, smoother, more expressive, grander and more complex. Pouilly Fuisse can be found in almost any wine outlet. But Montrachet is found in only the finest restaurants, cellars and retail shops around the world.
There’s also the rarity factor. Wine is a finite product. There is certainly an aura of elitism intrinsic with being able to drink wines that are so rare or valuable that it becomes exclusionary. It’s special to be “one of the few.” But is that really luxury or snobbism? There still must be a link between rarity and quality. Just because it’s the last of something doesn’t mean that much in the wine world, but if it were the last bottle of something truly special in quality like 1929 Krug or 1947 Cheval Blanc, it would be invaluable and irreplicable. They just don’t make them that old anymore.
Lastly there is perception. It’s the ability for the consumer to be able to perceive the difference between a simple Pinot Noir and Romanee Conti that spawns us to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine. Luxury heightens our senses; helps make us feel more grateful to be alive. It helps us enjoy life to the fullest. It’s for this reason that we all want to be surrounded by and drink luxury.