Friday, June 15, 2012

More fun facts from the Fine Wine Trade Monitor Report

Barbara Insel
Priorat and Rioja are leading a revival in the market for Spanish wines; Chilean wines only sell when they're under $10; and after two terrible sales years, Napa Cabs are making a big comeback.

These are some more of the fun facts I learned from the $995 Fine Wine Trade Monitor Report from Stonebridge Research.

As with yesterday's post, I have highlighted a few facts from the report and asked Stonebridge CEO Barbara Insel to elaborate. This is only a small portion of the report, but if you appreciate the cost savings, you might consider kicking some of your spare change into my Virtual Tip Jar (I take Paypal and spend it on food, rent and 40-year-old Madeira.)

From the report: "Ratings matter less. This is the first year nobody asked about the Wine Spectator Top 100."

Insel elaborates:

"Somebody made the comment last year that everybody's got a 90 (point score) from some place. When you deal with sommeliers and professionals they're aware of all the good wine out there.
There are so many ratings out there that any particular list loses some of its power.
Ratings only matter when people have no other source of information about the product.
On flash sites, they talk about ratings if the brand isn't well known. If the brand is well known, they don't talk about the ratings.
So many people have said that: that the (Wine Spectator) top 100 didn't matter. Ratings matter less than they did before the recession. But that's about multiple media sources and that's been going on for 3 or 4 years.
People may read about a wine in your blog (The Gray Report) or in Vinography or somewhere else. The most powerful source of information about a wine is somebody you know and trust.
The top 100, it's important, but now it has to counteract all the other information out there.
Also for retail stores, if people worry about the top 100, they're going to look up online where the wine is cheapest is and order it there.
What the restaurants are doing, there's an enormous growth of direct import. They want to carry things that people are not aware of the price of.
Ratings are less important. Brand is important, not price.
It's interesting how many people in the trade have reconsidered their markups for wine. They're doing a flat scale so the expensive wines don't look so astronomical.
They don't want customers to walk in and say, I just saw this for 40% of the price at Costco.
The steakhouses are the ones that have those (top 100) lists. If you have a following that comes to you because of that, then you will continue to do that."

From the report: "Altitude is the new conversation."

Insel elaborates:

"There were several comments that were going in the same direction. It's about regions trying to find ways to distinguish themselves. That's much more of an on-premise than off-premise comment. What's making wine interesting these days? That's about telling a story. They're trying to tell stories."

From the report: "Syrah only sells in Northwest. Rhone demand still strong -- as long as it's not called Syrah"

Insel elaborates:

"Washington makes great Syrah and Washingtonians know it. 30-40% of all Washington wine is sold to the Northwest. Washington, Oregon and Idaho are very conscious of Washington wines. They look at Washington Syrah as one of their home wines, one of the things they are known for.
Washington seems to have escaped the pummeling that Syrah took with the Australian connection.
But if you talk to the rest of the country, you can sell Syrah but only if you call it a Rhone blend. They'll drink Rhone, but they won't drink Syrah.
Washington doesn't make as much wine as Napa County. There's just not that much wine."

From the report: "Texas is the strongest market in US. Sales up 20-25%. High-end focused on classics, but Greece is doing well. Spain slowing down."

I asked: Does Texas' importance in the market mean Texans' tastes in wine will have a Texas-sized impact on which wines succeed?


"Even though the sommelier group (in Texas) works hard at introducting new wines, it's a traditional market. It's brand-oriented. It's Napa Cab-oriented. It's a steakhouse market.
There's a high-end Bordeaux market and a Burgundy market.
There is some restaurant innovation going on in Texas. But when you see that you can sell expensive wines if it's a strong brand, that's because it's a traditional wine market. It's not that adventurous a market.
I don't think that the anything-unoaked market is strong in Texas. So when you see unoaked wines do well, that's not a Texas thing.
(Texas) still drives a lot of the people that we know well: Silver Oak, Rombauer, Cakebread, the classic Napa names. People are less adventurous and they spend more money.
Napa's doing better, and that's at least part of it."

Read yesterday's Part I here.

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