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Aug 11, 2008 10:21 AM

Wine market in free fall?

I'm seeing "specials" all over, by all major retailers ( NY & CA ).

That's not so unfrequent.

What IS unfrequent, however, is this peculiar combination of factors:

a) offers are for new releases;
b) we're not talking "en primeur" here, items are all in stock;
c) special price in U$S very close to European winery release price in Euros, even in some cases U$S price LOWER than Euro price;
d) provenance mostly France, Italy, Spain.

Question to insiders: is it as bad as it looks?

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  1. I wouldn't call it free fall.

    American consumers are spending less overall, and wine is often seen as a luxury item, rather than as a substance essential to one's being.

    In spite of the euro/dollar comparison, Europe has for several years been in what has been termed a recession. There's also been an overall drop-off in wine consumption, though some think this is more related to health issues than the economy.

    My guess is that the American wine market will really be hit next year, when the nation hasn't recovered from its unofficial recession, and the 2007 and 2008 vintages will be markedly higher in cost. Making wine (actual winemaking, bottling, aging, distributing) this year cost a lot more than last year -- fuel costs a lot more, but so does water and electricity and all sorts of little things like wire for trellising. All that will show up in the bottle price.

    Sales of ultra-premium wines have never taken a hit. The sales of those expensive wines are impervious to economic fluctuations.

    1. It looks like you are refering to are European wines. If that's the caswe then I am beginning to see a decline in pricing.

      Now, if only those VERY FEW California mailing lists that allocate to me would go along with what you see, then I'd be pleased. Unfortunately, the ones that I get allocations on seem to just increase pricing at will. I dropped out on many lists because their pricing just keeps creeping up and all did was hasten my taste evolution to the Old World stuff which, duh, I had always found to be better anyways.

      1. RicRios,

        I'll be interested to see how this plays out. I've seen all sorts of "discounts" on various high-end items, especially on ones that might well be defined as "luxury."

        To date, I have not seen a price decline in my wines, but will be watching.


        1. Are you talking about a specific price category?

          Chain store data indicates that overall, US wine sales have increased over the last 12 months, up 7.6% in $$, and 5.8% in cases, meaning on average, the US consumer is spending more on wine this year than last .

          Domestic wines are up more than 7%
          French wines are up almost 11%
          Italian wines down 1.5%
          Spanish wines down 6%
          Australian wines down 2% (this is a big 2%)

          Anecdotally, I have heard from a number of high end CA producers, and importers that on-premise sales are suffering, and this is where we typically see things slow down first.

          I think it's a little premature to be talking free fall. But if you see any great deals out there how about sharing a post!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sam B

            Some examples from actual retail purchases in the last couple months. Prices are per bottle (before tax), no minimum qty required.

            1) 2004 Philippe Delesvaux Coteaux du Layon "Sélection des Grains Nobles" 500 ml. Winery price € 30, U$S reg $75.00, purchased in July at K&L Hollywood for $28.99

            2) 2004 Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Réservé, both white and red. Winery price € 75, U$S reg $140, purchased August at Wine House LA for $76.00

            3) 2003 Giovanni Rosso Barolo Ceretta. Winery price € 40.00, U$S reg 75.00, purchased August at Zachy's NY for $39.99

            These are basically random picks from 3 major retailers, the list goes on and on.

          2. This is a complicated issue overall. And the deep discounting you see at the retail level may or may not have anything to do with what is happening elsewhere in the distribution chain. Does the retailer need to turn over inventory to make room for new product?