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Posts Filed Under wine buying

The Surreptitious Pour: Sneaking Top Shelf Wine in the Economic Downturn

Vinted on January 6, 2009 binned in wine buying, wine polls


A recent article by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times really caught my attention. In it, Catherine explores the recent wine buying trend in “trading down” – buying less expensive wines rather than splurging on the really pricey stuff (read the full article).

One of the interesting things she found is that wine retailers are almost making up for the reduction in premium wine purchases with an increased sales volume for the cheaper stuff.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss here.

What I found most interesting is how some people are drinking the decreased volume of really good stuff that they are buying. From the article:

“The people who have been splurging have been doing it surreptitiously,” said Jesse Salazar, the wine director at Union Square Wines in Manhattan. “There’s the secret pour and the pour for the guests at large,” he said. “I was at a Christmas party recently where there was a substantial amount of wine being purchased. But there was a party case, and then there was the host case back in the kitchen. The host was drinking Bordeaux; the guests were drinking Chianti.”

The Surreptitious Pour.

I love it!

What I’m curious about is if YOU would do this - would you hide the really good stuff at a party for you and a select few friends?

Because, I sure know that I’d be tempted to do that…

Cheers!
(images: chowdernation.com – modified)

The Price is Right? What Influences Wine Prices

Vinted on June 24, 2008 binned in commentary, wine buying

How much is that bottle of wine in the window?

Not that you’d want to buy wine that’s been sitting in a window for any extended period of time, since it’s probably baked from the exposure to all of that light and temperature variation.

Anyway, I’m off to Chicago for a non-wine-related business trip. While this jaunt has nothing to do with vino, that hasn’t prevented people from asking me wine-related questions! One of those recent questions got me thinking:

“Some wines seem so expensive… are they really worth it?”

The fine folks asking me that question are just looking for some good old-fashioned knowledgeable advice. But what they don’t realize is that it’s really a trick question.

My reply is usually something along the lines of

“How much did you pay for your house? Was it worth it?”

I’m not trying to be a smart-ass (that comes naturally), I’m just trying to get them thinking differently about a wine’s price tag. Is the price right? And if it’s “right”, for whom is it right? You? Me? Everybody?

There is a very, very simple reason why expensive wines are expensive, and it has very little to do with whether or not that wine is “worth” the price vs. a comparison with a similar wine at a lower price…


Does quality impact the price? Sure, but just like a fine dining experience vs. a trip to In-N-Out Burger, there is a relative level of quality involved, which is in no way a determinant of whether or not you’ll actually like that expensive wine. But that’s not the fundamental reason.

What about production and distribution costs? Sure, they affect the price too. If a winery picks and sorts their grapes by hand, that’s going to be a lot more expensive to do than doing it all by machine. In those cases, the winery is certainly going to pass on the additional cost to you, and in return you’d expect that the wine is going to taste better than one where the machines missed a few snakes and lizards during the sorting process… But that’s not the fundamental reason, either.

And as for the critics? Unfortunately, there is no denying the impact of critis like Robert Parker, who has followers lining up behind him so blindly that they will buy wine simply on the score that he gives it, not taking into account their own dis/likes. So the herd mentality has an impact as well, since a good Parker rating can easily send a wine’s price over $30 / bottle. But it’s not the fundamental reason.

Look at it this way: If your house is in a great area and built by a respected builder, then likely people would be willing to pay more for your house than another house nearby that doesn’t have those things going for it.

Similarly, the reason that a Harlan Estates red can cost up to $900 USD / bottle is really because of one thing: People will pay that much for it.

A little bit of supply & demand, for sure, but fundamentally the market has decided that $900 is a fair price. Just like the market decides, over time, what your pad is worth. Somewhere, people are consistently paying that much to get in on the cache factor of owning some Harlan.

God bless ‘em. If you’re one of those people, let me know how that bottle tastes. But please, don’t tell me if you think it was “worth” the $900 (or not)!

Cheers!

(images: amcati.com, klwines.com)

Who Cares What We Think? (The Influence of the Internet in the World of Wine)

Vinted on May 21, 2008 binned in commentary, wine blogging, wine buying

So, really – who cares what I think?

Maybe not too many wine consumers.

According to a new Pew Internet study report, the Internet has a small influence on consumers’ buying decisions when compared to offline channels (like recommendations from salespeople, friends, etc.). That includes Internet sites like, oh, for example, 1WineDude.com.

Hmm… maybe I should be putting a little more time & effort into my off-line consulting

Anyway, according to the Pew report (which, to be fair, measured on-line impact on purchases of music, housing, and cell phones only):

“No more than one-tenth of buyers… said that online information had a major impact on their purchasing decision.”

Well… crap!…

And here I’ve been trying to steer wine consumers right and not realizing the whole time that nobody is listening (er – I mean, reading).

What’s also interesting (assuming you still might care what I think at this point) in the Pew report is the gap between those who actively contribute to the on-line dialog (by submitting reviews, for example), and those that simply consume the information:

“The large gaps between contributors and readers are understandable; not all consumers
are interested in lending their voice and many may be content to free ride on the efforts of
others. However, with the growth of broadband adoption at home and the buzz about
online participation in a Web 2.0 world, widespread activity in this arena might be
expected. Yet the data in this report do not show this; there is clearly a distance between the numbers of those who contribute and those who lurk.”

I can’t say I’m too surprised by that finding. In my experience, especially with people of my g-g-g-g-generation, I’ve found that there is a need to consume information via the Internet, but very little drive to create that information themselves.

Case in point: my friends will tease me about the number of websites that I maintain (official number: too many), and in the same conversation will ask me why I’ve not updated one of the websites in the past 3 days.

They want to consume – they just feel that it’s someone else’s place to author that content. Is this “The Architecture of Non-Participation?”

Deep down I’m a skeptical guy – which in my twisted in mind is being patriotic (hey, the U.S. was founded by a bunch of skeptics!) – but I gotta admit, deep down I am also feeling like wine is different.

I know, I know – wishful thinking, right?

But hear me out (if you still care what I think, that is): Buying wine is different than buying music or a cell phone, because wine is meant to be shared. By its nature it’s a social beast, to be enjoyed with others. It’s one of the few goods we can buy that actually becomes an event unto itself. A cell phone can be nifty but it’s probably not going to be a lubricant for life. And try sharing your cell phone with someone else without going totally insane.

If you take a look at social networking websites like the Open Wine Consortium, Corkd.com, and CellarTracker.com, you will find lots of wine consumers willing to share their views, reviews, and recommendations. I would find it hard to believe that those interactions don’t influence the wine buying decisions of consumers somehow.

And wouldn’t it be great if, instead of wine distribution monopolies, stuffy media mags, and 2 or 3 critics dictating nearly all of our wine purchasing choices, we actually influenced each other and helped each other out based on our own experiences of wines that we thought actually tasted great?

But then again, who cares what I think?


Cheers!

(images: thoomp.com, allposters.com, imagechef.com)

How to Fix the Broken U.S. Wine Shipping System

Vinted on May 14, 2008 binned in PLCB, wine buying, wine how to, wine shipping

I know what you’re thinking, after reading the title of this post.

“Is the Dude about to go on yet another tirade about the PLCB? Okay, okay, they suck – we get it already…”

Well… the answer is “Yes.” Sort of. I’m about to go on a bit of a tirade about the wine shipping laws not just of Pennsylvania, but also of WA, ID, AZ, CO, KS, MN, IA, WI, MI, IN, KY, GA, FL, SC, NC, NY, VT, CT, RI, and IL (pending review of currently proposed legislation).

The state of affairs of wine shipping laws in those states is almost hopelessly broken. Notice I say “almost hopelessly.” That’s because I’ve thought of a way to fix it. Let’s break it down…

I say broken because those states have laws on the books that restrict the free trade of inter-state wine sales – a practice deemed unconstitutional at the federal (and for some also at the state) level. For the most part, these states are trying to protect state-run monopoly businesses that would be handed their own jock straps in the free market if, say, a big buyer like Costco were permitted to sell and ship wines directly to consumers in those states. The state run operations add extra cost while limiting value and selection – because they are monopolies, they don’t need to compete on the basis of price or service. If individual consumer rights, or the best interests of local state wineries get in the way of their monopoly profits, those citizens are simply disregarded – even if the states’ supreme courts have ruled against those practices. So, they make billions, pay big bucks to lobbyists to protect their position, and the state governments (for the most part) turn a blind eye to it all (probably because of the huge windfall).

How to fix this mess? Simple. Here’s a 2-step process of playing politics that could turn the tide. The thing to keep in mind is that politics is almost always a numbers game. And it almost always involves you (the people getting screwed) getting off your keesters and getting active.

  1. Stop buying wine from the state. I mean it. Don’t buy wine from your state-run liquor store. What will this do? It will reduce the windfall (remember the part about this being a numbers game?). No profits, no windfall. No windfall, no paying lobbyists to turn the tide of free trade legislation. No lobbyists, no deceit-filled battles to block the spread of capitalism to the wine shipping business.

    Disclaimer: I’m not advocating you breaking the law – and to be honest, your state’s liquor laws are so convoluted you probably violated them already if you took any cough medicine this year. Anyway, I don’t care where you get your wine, as long as it’s not from a state-run monopoly. If you are lucky enough to live near a bordering state that does sell wine through the free market economy… well, I’m just saying that you might have alternatives.

  2. Write your state legislators. This is still a numbers game, because far fewer people actually do this than you’d think. So, if you flood your state legislators with correspondence, eventually they will question whether the tide needs to turn against the monopolies. Especially if you followed step 1 (politicians likely won’t stand by a sinking ship that is losing money) and indicate in your correspondence that you’re a voter in good standing and any re-election bid support on your part will hinge on their demonstrated support of free trade.

    Fortunately, writing your state legislators is very easy. Head on over to FreeTheGrapes.org – they will find your legislators e-mail addresses for you, and give you a handy form-letter to send them (don’t forget to add the re-election support part – politicians usually don’t like losing their jobs).

Maybe this sounds unreasonable, overly-simplistic and ridiculous to you.

But ask yourself this:

Is it any more ridiculous than a business with cripplingly poor business models, that can’t compete on the basis of service, selection, and price, making in excess of $1.5 billion dollars a year by hiding behind antiquated laws and charging you artificially high prices?

What if your state controlled your cell phone service that way? Or forced you to buy milk only from the state, even though it was stored improperly and cost 35% more than what your cousin, who lives in the next state over, pays for his family’s milk (which he can buy from wherever he feels offers the best milk at the lowest price)? Or limited your selection of underwear to a handful of brands and sizes?

Or treated women’s designer shoes the same way? (scary… that one might have the potential to drive Mrs. Dudette to kill)…

Sure, there’s a big difference between “essential” goods like bread and luxury goods like designer fashions. But before you write off wine as an item that is fair play for regulation by the “pleasure police” (Robert Parker‘s term for the alcohol regulators in his home state of MD), don’t forget that two of our founding fathers (the two widely regarded to have had the most raw intellectual horsepower, by the way) – Jefferson and Franklin – viewed wine as an essential life good, equal to water and bread in terms of necessity.

So… who’s being unreasonable?

Cheers!

(images: blog.whathappensnow.com, wine.appellationamerica.com, ronalfy.com)

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