The bottle Cono Sur use for their 20 Barrels pinot noir reminded me of one wine I tried while I was in Rioja. The world of wine is all about indulgence and frequently creeps over into excess, but here was the most indulgent, excessive thing I have ever encountered.
The wine is created by Bodegas Valdelana, using fruit from a pre-phylloxera vineyard. The vines are proper old, and produce so incredibly amazing they decided that the only way to treat them with due deference would be to vinify them and package them in the most incredibly amazing way they could think of. If they could only have aged it in barrels made from the tree of knowledge, bottled it in vessels hand-blown by genuine leprechauns and labelled it with signage individually crafted by angels, before finally distributing it to their grateful consumers on unicorn-drawn chariots, they surely would have done. Instead they bought the heaviest bottle known to man – 3kg when empty, our guide proudly told us – designed a metal label, packaged it with a pot of genuine gold leaf (you’re supposed to sprinkle it in your wine for extra health-giving anti-oxidants) and slapped on a $250-a-bottle price tag.
The resulting wine, apparently best drunk within two years, is sold in luxury establishments such as the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, and in exclusive American retailers at $250 a pop. The wine is OK, and would represent decent value if sold gold-free at 10% of that price. As it stands, it’s the perfect gift for the man who has everything (except taste), or Olympic weightlifters in search of a fresh challenge.
Valdelana’s little old bodega is a funny old place to visit, by the way, complete as it is with lots of fake grass and a subterranean mirrored “vineyard”. The best thing about it is the view from the door down the road to Marqués de Riscal, the brilliant Frank Gehry-designed hotel-on-top-of-a-winery, about which more, another time.