I always go back to this quote from Greg:
“It comes down to this: we honor the terms of the implicit contract expected by consumers of wine: that the product is indeed the result of careful, sustainable agriculture, artisan craft and responsible handling.”
Now that’s what we’re talking about…wines, handmade, to the very highest levels of quality, by artisans who are truly qualified. Back in the days of European royalty (let’s exclude the current residents of Buckingham palace), such artisans were sought out by courtiers – buyers for the royal families, to guarantee the quality of goods sold to the royal households.
After the First War, with royalty largely out of fashion (and power…and money), the market for “luxury goods” were the new, rich industrialists – the few who could afford the work and raw materials that went into producing the goods. Again, the goods were produced by hand, by artisans. Artisan production houses like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, etc., sold to a small group of people who were wealthy enough to afford their products. The attraction of these “luxury goods” was their limited availability, and high-quality.
These days, it’s probably a good idea to look beyond the luxury “brand,” and find out if the goods in question really ARE “indeed the result of careful…artisan craft.”
Newsweek writer, Dana Thomas just published a book called Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster, in which she points out that most “luxury” clothing and handbag brands are now owned by multi-national, publicly-traded corporations. Along with this, she explains how the “luxury” products manufactured by these “brands” are now, largely, being produced in “developing nations,” NOT by craftsmen/women, but by assembly line workers who may (or may not) receive two weeks of training via video or through translation during a visit to the factory by an “old world craftsman.”
One particular company, the Valentino Fashion Group (brands include Hugo Boss, Valentino, M Missoni, Marlboro Classics, and Lebole) went from paying Italian clothing workers the equivalent of $18 dollars per hour to paying workers in Egypt the equivalent of 88 CENTS per hour to manufacture their “luxury brand” clothing (prices didn’t decrease to reflect the new efficiencies). What used to be rare, is now ubiquitous, and the quality has dropped dramatically.
I have no qualms with making a profit through one’s work. But if the work in question isn’t of the quality that’s promised by marketing, well then…what, “buyer beware?” Over the last 30-some years that I’ve been around wine, I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over: whenever production “ramps up,” and “brands” “diversify,” the quality goes to hell, the price NEVER goes down, and the marketing and advertising would lead any consumer to believe that the products are still “the result of careful…artisan craft.”
Lest you worry that I’m an elitist, worried that it’s no longer possible to tell the hoi poloi from the well-heeled, that’s not my point. In fact, Moore Brothers Wine Company consistently proves that “luxury” need not be the exclusive prerogative of the wealthy – you can find outrageously good wine (all perfectly cared for, and in pristine condition) for less than $15 bucks a bottle, and it will be indeed the result of careful, sustainable agriculture, artisan craft and responsible handling.” And that’s a real luxury.