News and notes related to the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite subject, quality, inexpensive wine:
• The market focuses on cheap wine (or, I become hip and trendy): Which, of course, is a scary thought. But some anecdotal evidence suggests that a potentially major shakeout is underway in the retail marketplace, as consumers look for less expensive wine. One major Dallas-area retailer says he can’t move anything that costs more than $10 or $12, and even $15 wine is sitting on the shelves. Meanwhile, an executive at a well-respected importer told me “Seems like everyone is asking for wines under $25 –- and we don’t have many, alas.” I’ll have an in-depth look at what’s happening, as promised, after the first of the year.
• The 2007 California vintage: Usually, I’m not much of vintage guy, since most of the wine that most of us drink doesn’t depend on vintage for quality. But in tasting my way through a lot of 2007-vintage cheap wine over the past three months, it looks like the year may make a difference this time. What is ordinary grocery store wine most of the time has taken a step up in quality, and my favorite cheap California wines are even better. The wines taste fresher and more interesting. Why is the vintage making a difference? A smaller crop led to better quality grapes, even for less expensive wines. The catch, of course, is that there is no guarantee these wines can maintain their quality in 2008.
• Fine wine prices continue to fall: They have dropped 20 percent since June as measured by Liv-ex, the electronic fine wine exchange (wine’s version of the New York Stock Exchange). Said a Liv-ex official: Investors and distressed sellers are liquidating their positions in the “dash for cash,” causing prices to soften further. Frankly, anyone who buys wine to speculate deserves whatever they get.