Friday, September 21, 2007
Gourmet food and fine wine
I'm not much of a drinker. I'll have the occasional glass of wine or a bit of vodka once in a long while but that's about it. I guess I never acquired a real thirst for it. Plus, I think I got all that out of my system when I was younger. So you'll imagine my confusion yet curiosity over why some drinks are so expensive, and even considered collectible.

On Art of Life, I've been fortunate to try what some – including myself - would consider expensive drinks. I found vintage Dom Perignon very smooth and just slightly sweet while Cristal was quite dry. At the House of Krug I found I enjoyed the Krug Clos Du Mesnil 1996 over their signature Grande Cuvee. With vodka, it was fascinating to see Ciroc make theirs with grapes and with cognac. Remy Martin's Louis XIII should never be poured into a short, wide brandy glass. Instead, a sommelier's glass is ideal to experience the entire aroma and flavor.

Forbes reported the most expensive champagne that can be bought off the shelf is Krug's Clos Du Mesnil 1995. It goes for at least $750 a bottle. Only 12,624 bottles were produced adding to the rarity and the price. Still, it is far cheaper than Louis Roederer Cristal 1990, a bottle of which sold at a London auction for $14, 730.

In the world of cognac, Remy Cointreau's Black Pearl will set you back about $10,000. Only 786 bottles were produced and each carafe is hand blown from special smoked glass by Baccarat. The Remy Martin Louis XIII is a mere $1400 a bottle.

So, why are they so expensive? Are they really worth it?

Remy Martin cellarmaster Vincent Gere told me that for him luxury is defined as rarity. He will never be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, as the Remy Martin Louis XIII takes a century to make. It is aged in oak barrels and 100 years later the cognac is enjoyed by connoisseurs who will be able to taste the woodiness of the barrels and the subtle flavors of honey and plum. It's smooth because of the age and it's that dedication to perfecting the subtleties of flavors that adds to the richness of the drink. Those who do drink brandies and cognacs regularly will probably know the difference and the value of the various brands. But if something takes that long to make, there must be something special about it.

History and tradition also play a part in value. The House of Krug began six generations ago and to this day the grapes are still handpicked and a member of the Krug family is still in charge of making sure every bottle of their Grande Cuvee tastes consistent. Their craft is using the best that technology has to offer but only to enhance what tradition has taught them. In a time when we're always on the hunt for what's new, tradition is a rare commodity - and that also determines price. After all, if a business has lasted six generations, they must be doing something right. Right?

I have a friend who is an ardent wine collector for the simple reason that he enjoys drinking wine. If he finds a particular vineyard that produces a flavor he really enjoys he will buy a case. That's all it comes down to. If you enjoy something and can afford it why shouldn't you treat yourself? The more I work on Art of Life, the more I am learning about the finer things in life. I see the work that goes into making clothing, cars, cognacs, and champagnes.

Most of the time I do see the difference between those things that are made well and those that are cheaper. That said, I won't go about paying $200 for a t-shirt simply because it has a designer label, nor will I go about buying a $1000 bottle of champagne because it's what the rap stars are doing. If I see true value in something and I enjoy it then I will pay for it. Not to keep up some superficial image, but simply because I will enjoy it. After all, being able to enjoy your life the way you want is a luxury in itself, isn't it?
Posted By Monita: Friday, September 21, 2007
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CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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