Friday, July 23, 2010

Shhhhh!


There are changes afoot in WineWorld.
Years of near-optimal grapegrowing weather (at least in Washington) have brought us over-ample harvests. The economy is still quite weak. Some folks are leaving wineries, who have been there for years. The number of post-offs (discounts) at my distributors is much higher than in the past. Torii Mor, for example, just took a federal stimulus loan, in order to keep operating; now it has even more debt to repay.
At long last, the combination of massive (reckless?) new plantings of winegrapes over the past decade has run headlong into a Great Recession. Stocks of wine are building up, not just in the distributors' warehouses but also in the wineries.
What is a winery awash in its own juice to do? No winery wants to admit that its top-end wines are not selling.
Enter the Second Label and the Negociant.
Some wineries issue a second label, for value-priced wines. If their premium wines aren't selling, lots of that juice can find its way into the second label bottles. Some wineries (e.g., K Vintners) will freely admit that in slow years, some of their top-end wine ends up in their value-label bottles. Other wineries take the stealth route, and sell prime wine to negociants, under the strictest confidentiality (the wineries don't want anyone to know that they can't sell all their best stuff). The negociants then sell the wine under some label which doesn't disclose the true identity of the wine. You can imagine a tank truck backing up to the winery, under cover of darkness . . .
If you can identify those value labels which contain a lot of top-end wine (say, wine made by the likes of Leonetti, or Quilceda Creek, or Cayuse, or Basel, or Abeja, or Walla Walla Vintners--you get the idea), then a great bargain can be had. The difficulty is in spotting the gems amidst all the gravel. I'm working on this concept, and hope to bring you some great bargains; if you have any info for me, please write me at kenton_erwin@msn.com

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