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Cahors Malbec: Feisty and Powerful, But Is It Marketable?

Vinted on May 21, 2010 binned in on the road, wine buying

I’m in Cahors, and it’s one of those thoroughly gorgeously sunny wine country days that at turns make me happy to be alive and secretly, maddeningly spiteful towards those who get to experience this nearly every day.

Of course, those turns tend to come after long stints of travel when I’m severely under-caffeinated, so keep that in mind before you read too much into it.  Also, Charles de Gaulle airport smells of rotting garbage, but that might just be from the massive number of over-traveled, unwashed people congregated in close proximity after their long flights.  Ok, I really need coffee right now.

Anyway, tonight (which will be last night, actually, by the time most of you out there read this) we kick off the International Malbec Days Festival here at the Pont Valentré with a pre-opening tasting event.  In preparation, I’ve gotten a bit more info. on the aims of the event and its sponsors.

Cahors is laying claim to the title of “Spiritual home” of Malbec (also known as Cot and Auxerrois in the general Sud Ouest).  Its main competition now, of course, is Argentina, who now grows more of the stuff than France.

[ Warning: Gross over-simplification in-progress ]

Cahors has three main terroirs when it comes to Malbec (and they’ve been growing it long enough that I think we can safely employ the dreaded T-Word), and they equate roughly to the elevation of the vineyard terraces above the Lot river.  The closer to river-level, so the thinking goes, the more alluvial the soils and the less complex the wines (check out ReignOfTerroir.com for a great detailed exposition of these), and typically the higher proportion of other varieties (Merlot and Tannat) blended into the final product.

These terroirs produce wines with different stylistic profiles, from simpler and fruitier (“Tender & Fruity” according to the marketing materials) wines close to the river, to “Feisty & Powerful” wines in the middle terrace, and finally “Intense & Complex” wines made from 100% Malbec.  Theoretically, the price points follow suit as expected.

[ Thus endeth the Gross over-simplification ]

The marketing strategy is to make a push for Cahors wines to gain market share of Malbecs sold internationally, which they’ll primarily need to take away from Argentina, starting with the U.S. market (the goal is a 3-5X increase in sales in the U.S. within 3 years).  The focus of this push are the “Feisty & Powerful” Malbecs, priced in the $15-$25 range, hitting the large East and West Coast U.S. markets.

Ignoring the discussion of whether or not enough Cahors wine in the tier is produced and exported to the U.S. to provide the ammunition for such a push, from my vantage point it looks like Cahors will be going head-to-head against Argentina in that tier, only with higher prices, more confusing labels, less market awareness, and (arguably) a less newbie-friendly taste profile.

I suppose the cat’s now out of the bag that I’m a little skeptical, but I’m clearing a small space of my mind from concentrating on the secret spite of the recently-traveled, and reserving that space as “open mind” to be filled by the tasting notes of Cahors wines.

Can Cahors make such a push?  The proof will be in the dark, inky, tannic pudding, I suppose…  More to come…

Cheers!

The $500 Wine Question

Vinted on December 21, 2009 binned in commentary, wine buying

What wine would you buy right now if you had $500 to spend on it?

I mean, let’s say you were given $500 cash, right now, and told the only condition upon receiving it was that you had to spend that money on wine, and you had to buy it right now.

What would you buy?

I’ve been thinking about this question for days and days, and it’s made me curious as to how the intelligent, witty, and better-than-average-looking 1WineDude.com readership would answer it.

Do you blow the whole wad on one wine, like a very-good-but-not-great vintage of Chateau Petrus, just to say t hat you did it at least once? Or go for two bottles of a classified Right Bank Bordeaux?  How about dabbling in a little high-end Burgundy?  Or take a dessert wine tour of the world, through Porto, Madeira, Hungary, Sauternes, Niagara, Jerez…?  Or a bargain-end binge shopping spree, stocking up on fairly-priced wines

It’s a compelling proposition, isn’t it?

Here’s the part that will start to bake your noodle:

Once you’ve decided on an answer… ask yourself Why haven’t I bought myself that wine already?  Is it because $500 isn’t exactly small change in today’s crappy economy?  Catholic guilt preventing you from spending that kind of money on yourself?

I think reading each others’ responses to these questions would be fascinating.

I’ll kick things off – I’d blow the whole wad on one wine, the kind of cultish wine like Petrus that is supposed to blow your mind, just to see if it can really live up to the stratospheric hype factor.

How about YOU?

Cheers!

Wine.com Top 100 of 2009 and the Not-So-Changing Tide of Wine Sales

Vinted on December 4, 2009 binned in wine buying

This week, Wine.com – the largest on-line wine retailer, and still everybody’s “love-to-hate-‘em” choice for performing their own self-serving wine distribution ‘sting’ operation last year – has released the third annual list of their top 100 best selling wines.

The top 10 in that list potentially tell us a lot about U.S. consumer wine buying preferences, because of the size of its business (exact numbers are a bit difficult to come by, as the company is still privately held).  Here they are (click the image to embiggen):

What those top 10 wines tell us is… well, a bit of something old, and a bit of something new

Read the rest of this stuff »

China and Wine: By the Numbers

Vinted on November 24, 2009 binned in commentary, wine buying, wine publications

The November 23, 2009 edition of the New Yorker contains a fascinating article by Evan Osnos titled “Letter From China – Reds: The creation of a wine-loving class.”

The article recounts a short period in the history of the A.S.C. Fine Wines company based in Beijing and run by two Canadians (a father-and-son team by the name of St. Pierre). Just as interesting as the trials and tribulations of the St. Pierre clan is the clear picture that Osnos’ article paints of fine wine consumption in China.

I’ll share some of those numbers with you in a moment, but before I do, let’s get the bottom line conclusion out of the way now: anyone who doesn’t think that China is not among the major players – if not the major player –  in the world fine wine market needs to have a belly-button window installed (think about it… you’ll get it).

In a less than 15 years, China’s upper-middle class has gone from a “let’s mix red wine with soda” drinking culture to a group of savvy if star-struck fine wine and dining folk right out of a hackneyed, First-Growth-worshipping Wine Spectator lifestyle piece.

Welcome to the new world of international wine…

Read the rest of this stuff »

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