Posts Filed Under wine buying

Infinite Substitution Means That Without A Unique Wine Brand Message, You’re Screwed

Vinted on May 30, 2012 binned in commentary, wine buying

My friend Rémy Charest has been reporting on events from the London Wine Fair over at, and one of his recent reports really struck a chord with me.

What stood out for me was the concept of “infinite substitution” introduced to Rémy during one of the conversations that he had at the Fair. To the tape (emphasis mine):

Dan Jago, category director at Tesco, the supermarket chain that is also the largest retailer of wine in the United Kingdom, pointed out that in the wine world, a major difficulty is what he called “infinite substitution”. “There is always another product that will do the trick, in any shop. And if you do anything new, there are 45 others that will jump in and do the same thing”, he summed up, pointing out how most customers in supermarkets or large wine stores pick bottles rapidly, to get a price point and taste profile.

This stood out for me because Jago effectively summed up the vast majority of wine brands available right now in the U.S. For a sense of the volume we’re talking about here, Rémy mentioned a conversation he had with another friend of mine (damn, this wine world really is small!), Nomacorc’s Jeff Slater, who told him “there are something like 700 different wines in an average US supermarket.”

It sums up the vast majority of the 1200 or so bottles of wine samples that have overtaken my basement, and if they’re any indication of the U.S. wine market at large (and I’d certainly argue that they are), then the average wine consumer has learned something very important about how to shop for wine, something retailers have picked up on and have already factored into their stocking approach:

Most wine brands, within certain flavor profiles, taste the same and are priced the same; and so they are effectively interchangeable. And that is bad news for a lot of wine brands….

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Are “Bin End” Wines Really A Good Deal? How To Avoid Getting Tebow-ed At The Bin

Vinted on January 10, 2012 binned in wine buying, wine news

It seems that venerable news-aggregator has stumbled upon the apparently news-worthy advice that shopping in the “Bin End” section (so named, as I understand it, because these were often literally bins of wine stacked up at the end of the aisles in wine shops) of the wine store is a good place to find vinous bargains.

To the tape:

“…you can also score some discounts by looking for your wine or liquor store’s “bin ends” section, or bottles with scratched labels, wines or vintages that are bout to be rotated out of stock, or just not a great seller at that store.”

But not all is a bowl full of rosés in those end bins. The trouble with the bin-end-bargain advice quoted by Lifehacker (which is a re-blog of wine buying tips from – the rest of which are much more sound, by the way) is that quite often the wines offered in bin ends aren’t much of a bargain at all.

If you’re not careful, shopping those bin end bargains might actually leave you more disappointed than a Steelers fan after an improbable NFL post-season Tebow-ing (full disclosure: I’m a long-time Steelers fan, so, yes, this is cathartic for me, okay?)…

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Who Has The Most Influence On The Wines That We Buy?

Vinted on June 1, 2011 binned in best of, commentary, going pro, wine appreciation, wine buying

Several days ago, a lively discussion took place here in the comments on a post (okay, “rant”) that challenged wineries in emerging wine regions to focus on fewer, higher-quality bottlings, and not to pawn off poorly-made (or not-quite-ready-for-prime-time experimental) wines onto customers at their tasting rooms (a scenario which I’ve experienced first-hand).

In those comments, frequent-visitor and formidable-wine-blogger-in-his-own-right Thomas Pellechia raised a couple of fascinating related questions, about which he, in turn, challenged me to write:

“…is there or should there be a relationship between what the wine ‘press’ prefers and what the wine ‘tourists’ buy? And who’s got the upper hand when it comes to establishing the success of a winery?”

Put another way, if critics say a wine really sucks, how relative of a measure is it?  Do people act on that assessment when it comes to buying wine?  And if they do, should they?  Could a winery still manage to pawn off its crappy stuff to newbie consumers in the tasting room, even if critics pan the bejeezus out of it?

Not easy questions to tackle.  In fact, they’re like trying to tackle Jerome Bettis in his heyday.  If I’d have had any clue just how deep a rabbit hole I’d be diving into after promising Thom I’d take on the topic, I would have told him (politely) to get bent and stop leaving such profound comments on my blog.

And this rabbit hole goes pretty deep, boy.  What I found in my quick-and-dirty investigation reveals a lot about how we buy wine, calls into question the future relevance of wine criticism generally (including my own modest contribution to that sphere), and tells us why it still might be possible for wineries to close many a tasting room sale on their crappiest offerings.

So take the red pill, if you dare, and I’ll show you just how deep the rabbit-hole goes…

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