Jimmy Metta studied business and Italian at the European Business School in London and graduated trying his hand at importing consumer electronics from China relying on a word of mouth distribution channel. He had no experience with wine and certainly no affinity for Bordeaux first growths when he serendipitously purchased a magnum of ’61 Petrus for £5,000. He held it for two days and sold the bottle for £7,000 and a handsome profit margin. “It was a big gamble because I didn’t quite know what I was doing, but I had a good feeling,” said Metta. His “wholesale” business was launched and fully jettisoned by nabbing luxury Champagnes on the grey market and reselling to nightclubs so high flying party revelers could ring up their credit limits with wildly expensive bottles of Cristal and Dom.
A dear friend of mine in Bristol, England collects a different Bordeaux first growth, Chateau Latour, amassed carefully over decades of participation in the En Primeur system, so he can drink the wine he loves with anyone that also shows the slightest appreciation. For one of my milestone birthdays , he invited my wife Liz and I to join a group of 10 of his friends in Bristol to taste through at least a dozen vintages of Latour dating back to 1907 (it was still alive and great!) . The social grace, gesture, appreciation, friendship, and connection that evening was something I will never forget. Ever!
While in Bristol, I rummaged through his wine cellar to find countless bottles of vintage and non vintage champagne that has been laying still in his tombs for years. I remember pulling Champagne over 40 years old. I heard of his sincere passion for aging Champagne and his patience waiting on burnt orange colors and the loss of some effervescence during the decades of lay down years. I developed a perspective that night that laying away Champagne (he also suggests that non vintage Champagne ages better) results in an evolved wine that most of the world will never experience.
So what is with Jimmy Metta and the myriad of resellers like him? Are they good for wine enthusiasts and the wine business overall or not? Do they get wine to more people who appreciate the artistry in the bottle or make it harder and more expensive? Should Jimmy have the right to drive up the price of ’61 Haut Brion 40% overnight and have collectors like my friend in Bristol paying premiums that are not set by wineries or their enthusiasts? Does this promote wine for its intended pleasure? And finally, how much Cristal and Dom is poured in dark clubs amidst loud music and writhing bodies?
I remember when breaking out the Brioni and Armani was enough to drive attention at top hotspots so we could pour Grey Goose on the dance floor and save the good stuff for the right moment.