Vol 4 No 3 Is the high end wine market imploding?

TB has been reading articles lately on demographics of wine buyers and here is the jist:

  1. Babyboomers start in 1946 and run to 1964 (note TB is in the twilight zone missed greatest generation too…Dec. 26, 1944; Generation X is 1965-1980; Millennials run from 1980 on…but for our purposes end at 1997 in order to be of age to buy (not necessarily to consume, right?).
  2. As the babyboomers retire, they are being forced to cut down on their consumption of high priced wines ($50+ for example). That means someone has to pick up the slack. In 2008, China did just that for Bordeaux saving it from catastrophe, driving the price of 1st and 2nd growths to the moon, Alice…the moon, as the Great One would say…quite a wine drinker he! So far, no one is trying to take the torch, which has given rise to online sellers of various sizes and value to buyers. One site TB is aware of and has used for obscure wines is Wine Till Sold Out dotcom. it is becoming apparent that this site is being used to offload unwanted inventory (distributors and retailers, of little interests to winery customers). I have heard no complaints about this one from winery owners although they are reluctant to go further for obvious reasons. There are other sites, as well as big box retailers like Total Wine & More, Beverages and More (BevMo), as well as Trader Joe’s that get mixed reviews.
  3. Millennials are a mixed bag: they don’t care to buy the same wines their parents did for the most part; are not collectors of rarities or wine for aging (generalization); many are making good incomes but many are not and some are still saddled with student loan debt, mortgages, car loans, etc.
  4. They want to discover their own fav’s and at affordable prices. That is the best answer TB can offer to the reason that wines in the $15-20 segment are the fastest growing in sales, while the $10 and under category is flat and has been for a few years running (it is also why TB believes the best values are in the $25-35 range (especially if you find them on sale), WTSO bears this out too if you look at their offerings).
  5. Daily TB sees wines in the $75-100 range…even $150…deeply discounted (that is one thing you may view as good or bad about the site as you will get perhaps a dozen offerings a day that are gone within 20-45 minutes…sometimes less  and price dependent, 1-4 bottles gets you free shipping!). This brings TB back to the last blog he posted a few days ago on when joining a wine club is desirable.

TB would appreciate observations of others on the veracity of the above, or other thoughts from readers.

These are/can be trying times for winery owners, particularly those who purchased vineyard land on the West Coast in the past ten years or so. What to they do with their surplus wines, particularly from their most recent vintages, that won’t drive down the price of their wine…permanently? The wrong plan can totally destroy the bottom line.

One outlet that is becoming more widely known is China, or Chi-na, as Trump would say (although he is a teetotaler, the family owns Trump Winery and which TB has no interest in trying – ever – it simply goes against his grain for a plethora of reasons). While the Chinese saved Bordeaux in 2008 during the global financial crisis, a byproduct was the demise of their three-tier system, it is also of interest to U.S. winemakers who need to get rid of inventory without ‘dumping’ it on the market. It simply vaporizes and unless someone wants to go into currency translation for the Yuan (real name Renmimbi), no one will ever know. TB believes this outlet originated when U.S. and other producers thought they could market their brands their but ran into a lack of copyright protection, fraud, and governmental bribes. The answer was to go to an exporter, who may be owned partially by the Chinese, and poof! Problem solved and no one will ever know what it was sold for. If this helps destroy our own post-Prohibition extortionist three-tiered wine laws, TB is all for it! Why should the grower/winemaker take the most risk yet make the least when with nothing but a law and some knowledge of wine (in some cases distributors even promote favorites while letting their smaller wineries hang.), make most of the retail price. The unfairness of this is further complicated by some state laws that say if you fire a distributor you can’t replace him until the last case is sold…and some are vindictive enough to never sell that case!

I could name extremely rare cult wines that are in the predicament of not being able to sell all their wine when there used to be a waiting list to buy it, but are having to resort to China to bail them out. Now do you understand the problem?

We will close on the topic of wine fraud. TB is willing to bet that virtually every collection has at least one bottle of counterfeit wine. In many cases, auctioneers turn a blind eye, some actually aid and abet it for their own profit and then deny culpability. Makes you want to rush down to your local wine auction house and get your bidding paddle, doesn’t it? Not TB, he had fun at wine auctions, got some great wines at reasonable prices, and watched others pay premiums for that could be bought at many wine shops…for less!

But his greatest success was selling some cult wines at huge premiums with the intent to buy more wine, but alas his wife saw things differently…the money simply vaporized.

TB will close with a quote from the great Andre Tschelistcheff (that you may have seen here before but what the hey…it’s a damned good one: “we spend far too much time tasting wine, and not enough time drinking it.”

Drink up, this ain’t no library!

TB

(c) 2018 traderbillonwine.com

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traderbill

How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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