THE more I find out about wine the more confused I become. Wine is a consumable. If you’ve bothered acquiring the taste over the years, you’ll understand that it is just a liquid, drunk to quench a thirst and calm the nerves. How do people attach a value to it?

Sipping on a glass of Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2013 I wondered (again) why anyone would want to pay good money for fermented grape juice. Granted, I am talking about the top end wines here and not the R40 plonk I usually drink.

Recent wine auctions showed how much we are prepared to pay for fine wine. At the 2014 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, three wines fetched the highest price ever achieved at this auction. The top price paid was R8600 each for three cases of six bottles — that’s about R1 8350 a bottle. 

Bottles of Cape Point Reserve White 2013 went for R1000 apiece. I gave someone R100 for the same estate’s tart sauvignon blanc I drank on Sunday.

Michael Fridjhon argued recently that price is determined by rarity rather than some intrinsic measure of quality. ‘‘After all, very little of this has anything to do with what is in the bottle,” he wrote.

After a year of trying to figure this industry out, I’m preparing for a soothing summer. I want a good bubbly to celebrate the end of another nasty year of bad news — more corruption, rape and Ebola.

Still, there has to be something more than just ‘‘rarity” about these wines that would make anyone willing to part with good money to drink them.

With the help of the sauvignon blanc, I didn’t have to stretch my imagination too far.

Like a Gerard Sekoto artwork, a fine wine has snob appeal. It gives relief from our day-to-day drudgery and buyers are prepared to pay for skill they admire.

After a year of trying to figure this industry out, I’m preparing for a soothing summer. I want a good bubbly to celebrate the end of another nasty year of bad news — more corruption, rape and Ebola.

Will I find it in the bargain shelves at my grocery store? Or will I spend my children’s inheritance on French champagne?

Neither. I’m going to search for affordable bottles of Methode Cap Classique.  I should find them.  Local bubbly-makers use the same method as the French, so they should come up with equally good produce at a fraction of the price. 

But unlike your William Kentridge and my Haroon Gunn-Salie, there will be no investment value in buying bottles of bubbly this season. What is the value of an empty bottle?

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