When I first visited Lafite in the 1970s, the great Bordeaux estate had a very primitive packaging line: it took several months to bottle the vintage. The wine that came off the line last was clearly going to be different from the bottle that had been first off some time earlier. At Chateau Margaux in the same era the wine ran from the fermentation vats to the barrel cellar along open concrete sluices — a distance (from memory) of at least 20m — picking up oxygen and “sediment” along the way. This was how wine was made at two of the top estates in the world less than half a century ago. Nowadays the wine business is intensely competitive. It’s easy to find the wreckage of poorly conceived, ill-planned and under-managed ventures that have failed. They stand as monuments to the naivety of those who threw (often enormous) quantities of money at trophy properties, imagining that passion and cash were all that was required for success. In fairness, there was a time when strategies like t...

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