I had a page-one story in Thursday’s paper that said Americans are drinking slightly more wines these hard economic days, but making cheaper choices. I wrote the story way too long. So here are some interesting outtakes:
· Collectors are snapping up bargains at auctions, buying $500 French wines that last summer would have cost $1,200.
· Investors are sitting on their wines, not always making
profits but usually beating the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
· Mel Dick (pictured here), president of the wine division of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, believes the trading down is temporary. "People who have been buying $100 bottles will go to $60 or $70, but they won't change their lifestyles," he says. "And when times are better they'll be back."
· Chip Cassidy, wine buyer for the 31-store Crown Wine & Spirits chain: ‘‘I had this college law professor in the shop and I was showing him a $22 wine and he said, 'No, no, no. Show me a $12 wine.' ‘
· Elaine Fredrikson, California wine consultant, agrees: "The young professional who might have thought little about putting a $30 bottle on his table every night is now looking for a great $12 bottle. People have
stopped going out to dinner, but they're cooking at home and putting more inexpensive wines on the table there."
· Jeffrey Wolfe, owner of Wolfe’s Wines in Coral Gables, is finding good, low-priced wines in Spain. “In Southern Spain there are good wines now from the Yecla, Jumilla, Alicante regions. The 2006 Castano Monastrell from Yecla is only $7, and it's marvelous."
· Wine shops and big-box stores selling inexpensive wines also benefited from cheap wines imported from Italy, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere.
"Because people were trading down to less-expensive wines, there was a flood of bulk wine coming into the U.S. to be blended and bottled here at good prices," Fredrikson said. So while Franzia's winery is in
California, its cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and other wines sold in boxes is often from abroad, mostly Argentina, she said. And because of the boom in demand for pinot noir -- still hot from being featured in the 2004 movie Sideways -- demand is exceeding the supply from California and Oregon. So U.S. producers like Beringer, Coastal
Estates, Beaulieu Vineyards, Turning Leaf, Fetzer and others are using grapes from Italy, France and elsewhere -- also at good prices.
· For decades, small, high-end California wineries have tried to sell their wines almost exclusively in restaurants. They believe it adds prestige. And they figure selling their wines to 12 different customers in restaurants will give it more publicity than selling a 12-bottle case to a wine shop customer. So retail shops could get only tiny allocations of
those wines. Those wineries have changed their tunes, says Fredrickson.
"They really had to scurry to get more of their wines into retail shops."
· Elsewhere in the world, wine is in flux: Exports of French champagne to
non-European countries including the United States were down 6.2 percent in 2008, according to the Champagne Vintners' Committee. New York auction prices for top Bordeaux and Burgundies have dropped by at least 25 percent since last August, according to The New York Times. A 12-bottle case of the 1989 Chateau Haut-Brion Bordeaux, which
sold for $20,000 in November 2007, is now under $10,000. Buyers who invest in wine have run into the same credit crunch that's hurting sales of houses and cars. Investors
are plodding ahead. At Andrew Lampasone's Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale, customers weary of stock market losses early last year were buying top wines and asking him to store them as investments. That's
continuing in volume this year, he said, but at lower prices. "Certain people still buy wines as investments," he said. "Will it go back up? Well, it will do better than General Motors. It won't go from $200 to $2."