• Exem Rouge 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): Pleasant French merlot blend from Bordeaux with nothing really wrong with it, save that it’s about $8 worth of wine. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): More Old World in style than one expects from Chilean wine, and especially from malbec. This red has less ripe fruit and more backbone and acidity than similar South American wines. Find this for less than $15, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Imported by Excelsior Wine.
The La Moneda malbec: “So much publicity, yet no availability” – the bane of the existence of anyone who loves wine
A reader writes:
“I have called Walmart in New Jersey and along the east coast regions. I have called the producer in Chile and the distributor in Minnesota. Unfortunately, and very sadly, no one has been able to help me place an order. I spoke to the corporate heads in Arkansas (Walmart) and they have no clue what I am talking about or what is La Moneda Malbec. I am writing you in hopes that you can simply tell me how can I order a case of this mystery wine that has so much publicity, yet no availability.”
The $6 La Moneda, for those of you who have not been breathlessly following this story, was called the greatest cheap wine in the world after it won a platinum medal at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards in London. The catch? That the wine was made for a British supermarket chain called ASDA, which Walmart owns. And it wasn’t sold in the U.S.
Nevertheless, as any Google search will show, the U.S. media went silly writing about the wine, mostly because no one could believe Walmart sold the best cheap wine in the world. This ignored the fact that the La Moneda wasn’t for sale in the U.S. — but why let that get in the way of a good story?
Additionally, almost everyone who posted La Moneda stories, including legitimate news organizations, didn’t seem to understand the wine business, the three-tier system, and availability. They didn’t realize that wine is different from every other consumer good; laws restrict how it is sold, so that just because it was for sale in one place didn’t mean it would be for sale in another place. My pal Dave McIntyre explained all of this brilliantly in the Washington Post, not that anyone paid attention.
This led to what the reader wrote – “so much publicity, yet no availability.” Which, of course, never, ever happens in the wine business, does it?
Walmart, to capitalize on the publicity, found enough of the wine last fall (and navigated three-tier to so do, which I wrote about here) to sell it at 577 of its 4,600 U.S. stores. The wine sold out before the end of the year, and there is none left in the U.S. It doesn’t appear there is any left in Britain, either. The ASDA website sells something called La Moneda Premium Collection Malbec, which is not the same thing — and it is only sold in Britain.
The moral in all of this? Wine availability is the bane of the existence of anyone who loves wine. And there is nothing to be done about it until we drive a stake through the three-tier system’s cold, cold heart.
Photo via the Washington Post, using a Creative Commons license
Apparently not, as this quote from the story in the above link demonstrates: “In fact, the affordable price tags and devoted fans of Costco’s Kirkland Signature booze has played a big part in the 46% growth in alcohol sales over the last five years at Costco. That’s a loyalty and sales boost Sam’s Club is likely attempting to copy.”
Which was exactly the reason given for Target’s upgrade of its beer and wine business. Why Walmart, which is supposed to be one of the world’s savviest retailers, thinks selling $7 cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay is going to make any difference in its nearly $500 billion business escapes me.
Note, too, that nothing in the above link or in any other story I found discussed quality, though there was lots of talk about adding “unique” products and luring high-end demographics into Sam’s Club. Because, of course, it’s wine, and those of us who drink it will buy what we’re told and figure it’s supposed to taste that way. Right, Trader Joe’s?
Which is the point every retailer who tries to knock off Costco’s Kirkland wine misses. The wines are often worth drinking, and even offer value in a way most Big Retail private label wines don’t. If the new Sam’s Club wines have anything in common with Walmart’s Oak Leaf brand, a lot of people will be fired, sales won’t increase, and nothing will change on the bottom line.