Wine Prices in 1962
In 1962, I was a senior at MIT, living in the Russian Dormitory,
which occupied one wing of Senior House (so-called because it was
the oldest residential house on the MIT campus). The resident tutor
of the Russian Dormitory was David Perlmutter, who was also a lecturer
in Russian and a graduate student in linguistics. David occasionally
drove a few of us in his Volkswagen Beetle to buy wine
at the Berenson Liquor Mart, whose catalog, reproduced below,
tells an interesting story of inflation:
The short explanation for these prices is the law of supply and demand.
Wines were not trendy in those years, and the supply of great wines,
including great old wines, was sufficient to meet the demand.
When wines became more popular in the 1970s, the area of the great
estates could not increase, but distilleries could crank up production
to any volume they could sell.
(For the record, Berenson's had a larger selection of wines and
spirits than the ones that appeared in their catalog.)
- The wines from the best châteaux cost only about 4 or 5 times
the price of a regional blend: $1.10 for a Bordeaux rouge (p. 2)
vs. $4.35 for Ch. Lafitte 1957, $6.45 for Ch. Latour 1957,
or $5.75 for Ch. Margaux 1955 (p. 4). For a great Burgundy,
note a 1959 Chambertin Close de Bèze for $5.25.
- The prices of wines from the best châteaux
have risen much faster than inflation, but distilled liquors
have not gone up much at all. Compare $5.75 for Ch. Margaux 1955
to $5.66 for a fifth of Tanqueray Gin (p. 25).
- A vintage Port aged for 25 years can be truly great.
But note that a vintage 1935 Port (27 years old in 1962) at $4.25
was barely twice as much as an ordinary ruby port at $1.99 (p. 20).
- Rare wines, which today could only be found at an auction house
or in a locked room of a specialty store, are listed at very afordable
prices: 1919 Ch. Haut Brion for $9.00 (p. 4),
1929 Clos St. Jacques for $9.50 (p. 9),
1908 vintage Port for $6.25 (p. 20), and 1869 Madeira for $7.50 (p. 21).