Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Wine Dump

Concurrently with the year ending holiday season, the larger wine wholesalers typically slash prices on those labels they choose to discontinue representing.  Last month there were more "wine dumps" than usual.  The truth is everything sells in December so it makes sense for suppliers to get rid of as much problematic product as possible before reverting back to business as usual again in January.  The reasons for these wine dumps are many and, not being inside that end of the business, I really shouldn't speculate about them.  What is obvious though is that the stuff wouldn't be purged if it was a real money-maker.

For retailers, since everything sells in December, we do our jettisoning in January when we need foot traffic in the store; hence, the discount rack.  We currently have two 20%-off racks here at the store; one for red wines, the other, whites.  As with basically anything in the store, if you hold it up and ask me, I will report what I know about the product and whether there could be a problem with it.  I try to shoot straight with my customers.  Afterall, they choose to spend their money here so why would I mislead them on a purchase. 

In the first ten days of the new year I have tasted out three bottles from the discount rack, two whites and a red.  They have all been fine and they have all sold out after tasting them, just as planned.  It's actually a no-brainer for the customer, considering the 20% discount.  Aside from older product with fading fruit, most discounted wines are afflicted with a problem more common than one would expect, the infamous bad label syndrome.  This was the case with the red wine we tasted.  It didn't help that it was a thirty dollar Syrah from Oregon.  Ninety-nine percent of wine customers would never consider purchasing it in the first place.  But the guy who sold it to me said it was good and it was indeed.

The two whites we tasted here were French dinner wines with similarly unfortunate labels.  One actually had a huge "X" embossed on the front.  Why didn't they just reproduce a urine specimen container label for the thing.  Anyway, French wine is drier, more nuanced, and really shows its best with a plate of complementary food, which reminds me of an inside joke in the wine business: If you have a wine like I mentioned above, an older vintage with fading fruit, tell the customer it's a "food wine", which actually makes sense for everyone since such a wine would probably show best with a meal anyway.

Having been in the business for some thirty-five years, my tastes now go toward the older vintage European models as opposed to the young and forward, fruit-driven California wines.  I was trained to understand that wine is part of the dinnertable by my mentor, Jim Sanders, who started the fine wine business in Atlanta back in the 1960's.  I still believe that.  So the exemplary fresh and fruity California wines really are cocktail wines and that is my understanding of the subject to this day.

This brings me to the Rutini wines of Argentina, a new world country with fruit-driven wines, but with a much longer winemaking history than America.  Rutini is perhaps the second most widely esteemed winery of Argentina after the great Catena.  The Rutini wines were closed out by their wholesaler back in November so these suggested $18 retail wines are now available here at $10.  The Chardonnay is an '09 vintage, the reds are '07.  While the forward fruit is gone, all of them are fine nonetheless.  I can, without hesitation, recommend them as wonderful food wines.

This Friday, January 17th, from 5 to 7pm we will be tasting: 2010 Echelon Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Quadrant Paso Robles Red Blend, 2009 Riondo Veneto Rosso, and three others yet to be determined.  Please join us.

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