Meet the New Boss
Same as the Old Boss
– Pete Townshend, Won’t Get Fooled Again
I get a lot of wine samples (and no, I have not yet properly pimped out my wine storage to accommodate them all). I know that many of you (because you’ve told me) hate it when I say that, because supposedly this is some sort of wonderful problem to have. However, that position is based on two assumptions that generally are totally wrong:
- The wine samples are primarily for my enjoyment.
- The wine samples are primarily very good wine (or, alternatively, the wine samples primary purpose is to keep me intoxicated).
The fact of the matter is that neither are true (the samples are for evaluation and most of them are not ‘knock-yer-socks-off’ good), so I don’t buy the argument that I’m a dick for discussing issues I might have with keeping up with wine samples (I could buy alternative arguments for why I’m a dick, however). I’m not going to complain if a winery producing limited amounts of excellent wine sends me a sample or two, because I know that most of you (because you told me) want me to write about those wines. But, in reflection of the wine market in general, those ‘special’ wines reflect maybe 2% of the samples sent to me.
I’m telling you this because, if my sample profile is any indication, the wine market is focusing on budget/value, and targeting the general wine consumer using low price points. Common sense would suggest that, in this time of economic meltdown challenge, the focus on producing budget wine is a logical new development in the wine market.
Logical conclusion, but wrong…
it’s wrong because it’s not new.
The wine market has been driven by the common-denominator quality level (in terms of being affordable to the ‘working class’) for centuries – it just gets more attention when the chips are down. The nice thing about the wine industry now vs. 250 years ago is that the quality of the common-denominator level has never been as good, which suggests that the industry will weather this economic storm and be stronger for it in the long run.
There have been few really surprising developments for wine as a result of the global recession, actually. One of them is that Bordeaux finally realized that it needs promotion and engagement with on-line social networking. But that’s for budget Bordeaux – if the big boys of the Left and Right bank participate in that, I’ll eat my hat.
You can cite numerous examples of wine industry developments in response to the recent economic downturn that seem extreme, but only in comparison to the high-flying `90s; when you compare them to hundreds of years of wine history, your reaction would be less “OMG!” and more “yaaaaaaawwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnn.”
By way of example, let’s take a look at 90+ Cellars.
Here’s the skinny on what 90+ is all about, taken directly from their website:
“We are taking advantage of the current economic conditions and purchasing high quality and highly rated finished wines direct from wineries at a discount and passing the savings on to our customers. Our primary selection criteria for wine opportunities is not just price and availability – the wines we purchase must have a pedigree of 90 or higher ratings, best buy or gold medal accolades from major publications. Other companies that offer this concept are usually buying the winery’s excess or distressed wine that they cannot sell on their own for pennies on the dollar. We are buying the winery’s best and most highly rated finished wine, which they would normally sell under their own label. Wineries are willing to sell to us because they either produced more than they need or sales may have slowed down. The wineries in return are promised complete anonymity, which we take very seriously.”
In summary: buy juice from wineries that they can’t sell and rebrand it so that those producers don’t lose face (a.k.a., lower prices).
A novel idea? maybe when applied to wine. But what does it tell us about the wine industry? That the producers are greedy and don’t want to lower their prices? Not really.
It tells us that producers think the issues plaguing the wine industry due to the current economic situation are temporary.
And if you check into your wine history, you’d probably come to the same conclusion.