Vol.4 No.1 are premium wines worth the premium?

Happy New Year to all! Have been thinking about this piece since the beginning of the year. I have found, personally, the sweet spot in wines is about $25-30…if I win the lottery tomorrow night that will likely change, but if I do, would I be buying $100-150 wines?

First, I find the best value in the $25-30 range…not that there aren’t a lot in the class below of a slightly expanded $18-20 range,  and of course some sleepers in the $12-15 range. Below that are some well made wines but not to my liking…or I haven’t found them yet. The $15-20 range for the third straight year is the fast growing sector, and represents a step up from the under $10 range that held for so long. As an aside, Rosé’s continue to increase in popularity but remain less than 5% of the market which begs the question: who is making money with what seems like hundreds of them out there and growing continually? Most are in the $12-15 range.

About those high priced wines. I have mentioned Wine Till Sold Out (www.wtso.com) previously and have had excellent experiences with them. To recap: they post wines perhaps one or two an hour or until they are ‘sold out’. Here is an example of what I am talking about:

Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2014 La Croix Saint Christophe
91 rating and 71% off!

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Comparable Price*: $70.00
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$19.99 71% OFF!

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wine bottle Description
Appellation Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Unit Size 750 ml
Varietal/Grapes Red Blend
Vintage 2014
Country France
Region Bordeaux
Alcohol Content 14.00
Peter Kwok has been breathing life into aging Saint-Emilion chateaux for a couple of decades, giving us new, delightful opportunities to enjoy the wines of this classic region in Bordeaux. Sourced from vineyards nestled among Cru Classe estates, this Merlot-driven bottling effuses a fruity and smoky intensity that speaks to its premier situation among the Right Bank hills. Try this wonderful Saint-Emilion with kebabs and shawarma!
91 Points – International Wine Report!
“The 2014 La Croix Saint Christophe Saint-Émilion Grand Cru delivers lovely aromas of ripe cherries, blackberries followed by violets, tobacco, wet stones and a touch spice. This medium-bodied red is wrapped in fine silky tannins, showing great structure and balance all the way through the long finish, which is laced with even more dark fruits and tobacco flavors.”
Pretty complete, no? So here are the salient points:
1. Good description and note that you can get free shipping (the number of bottles required varies inversely with the price but four is standard).
2. Note that they ship quickly from their N.J. warehouse so if you aren’t going to be home for a few days, want to avoid it being shipped in extreme weather etc.,you just let them know with your  order, which, once set up is just a click.
My experience is limited as I have only had a need for a specific wine twice but it was consistent. Also, if you have a problem they are prompt in getting back to you to fix it.
First time, I bought was Meyer Family Vineyards, 2011 Syrah. This is the late Justin Meyer’s winery after he sold out of Silver Oak.  I bought six bottles for, if I recall, $15 each – on a $35 wine. It was summer and the day it arrived it was over 100 degrees! I cringed when I thought of drinking it as my laser thermometer showed a bottle temperature of 90 degrees! That night I tried the first one and it was ‘raisainy’, not undrinkable mind you but not what I had bargained for. I notified them of the problem and they told me I should have told them to hold the delivery and then let them know when to deliver. Surprisingly, they offered to send me six more bottles and hold them until the weather cooled down. I did and when I received them they were in excellent condition…and I did, by the way finish the others. Not bad, eh?
But I was curious, what would the winery say about this? So, I called and spoke to Justin’s son, Matt (Justin’s wife Bonnie, for whom a Silver Oak vineyard was named, is still alive and active in the winery). He said that the 2011 vintage received poor reviews, but that they had harvested and bottled late and it was very good. The problem was stores had too much of the vintage so there was no market for it. That is when they went to WTSO. Matt sold two pallets, roughly 98 cases per pallet, to clear their inventory.
So what did Matt accomplish? He sold wine that he couldn’t do anything with at a price that was acceptable to him (don’t know what that was), the wine wasn’t sitting on shelves at a deep discount price (think Trader Joe’s or any large retailer). Instead it was up for perhaps 20 minutes and then disappeared. Remember they still had wine left which they would bring up at another time. That is why you will get lots of emails in a day, and it forces you, if interested, to act quickly. Gradually, they will sell all the wine in the lot. A win win for all concerned.
Contrast this to the other wine sites that show the price for long periods of time and it can be compared to other lots they are selling. The other alternative is selling to someone like Total Wine at an even steeper discount which they will advertise as “Winery Direct”, with a large markup. The cheerful staff will direct you to these sometimes in response to a ‘do you carry’ question, saying if you like that you can save a lot by buying this instead. Nothing wrong with that but is it really the same quality?
So there you have it and if we didn’t have the post-Prohibition, three-tiered market all would be better off. Most distributors are reputable, but some including the biggest ones don’t do a good job of marketing ALL the wines, especially from smaller wineries which is unfair because storage costs can quickly eat up profits or worse, turning them into losses.
As with all internet sellers WTSO is having a big impact on wine strategy for buyers. It becomes increasingly difficult to shell out $100 and then find it on line for significantly less. If you can find a good wine specialty shop, support their effort, not some liquor store with lighting that is hard on wine, improper storage, and a lack of knowledgeable help. Since moving to the Twin Cities seven years ago I have been pleased to find FIVE, and all but one with in five miles of my home (that is even more than when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is worth the search!
I will close with this quote from the great Andre Tschelistcheff, who knew of what he spoke: “We spend far too much time tasting wine and not enough time drinking it.”
TB’s kind of guy!
NEXT: Should you join a wine club?
(c) Traderbillonwine.com 2018

 

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