WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:14 pm

Wine and hard times

Your 401(k) is a mere shadow of its former self. Your house is now officially worth less than you still owe on it, and so is your car. And you're not absolutely certain that when you go down to your bank in the morning, you won't find that someone has put a padlock on the door.

When hard times come knocking on the door, what in the heck are we going to do about a necessary luxury like wine?

For purposes of this discussion, let's assume that our economic straits aren't so dire that we'll be forced to give up wine entirely or even to drinking anonymous wines in jug or box.

But even slightly desperate times call for serious measures, so today let's take look at a few strategies that may help keep a fine-wine hobby comfortably fed even when we're watching our wallets more closely than ever.

To me the approach seems obvious: In our strategy as wine consumers for the duration, buy affordably but buy smart.

This counsel may seem similar to the stock market wisdom, "Buy low, sell high" as advice that's easy to give but difficult to work out in the real world. But not so fast! Here are a few specific tips that may help.

* Keep an eye out for sales. Many wine shops, including our friends at Wine Library in New Jersey, are famous for offering special wines at marked-down prices, and advertise these sales widely in local media and online.

* Try for a discount. In most states where the laws allow, you can qualify for a discount if you buy a 12-bottle case, and many shops will extend this discount for a "mixed" case of different bottles. Some shops discount for six bottles or even extend a discount to regular customers buying less. Sometimes buying more costs less, and by stocking your home wine rack, you can save a pre-dinner trip to the store.

* Mine the in-store specials. Wine shops typically offer special deals in displays at the end of display rows or in separate boxes and baskets. These markdowns may occur for a variety of reasons, but most often reflect either a large buy at a low price or, possibly, the merchant's desire to get rid of an oversupply of older stock. Use common sense here - Tired 2-year-old Beaujolais Nouveau isn't much of a deal - but choose trustworthy merchants and you won't have to fear being taken advantage of.

* Speaking of trustworthy wine shops ... Whether you're new to wine or an old pro, it's hard to have a better friend in your quest for value than the kind of wine-shop proprietor who loves wine, knows wine, and understands that the best way to build long-term customer loyalty is to offer sound, honest advice even when the result is a low-end sale. Once you've established a good relationship with a trusted merchant, you can feel comfortable about asking for a good, cheap wine and not being sent home with a bottle of turpentine.

* Revisit your subscription list Pricey wine magazines like Wine Spectator focus on the winestyles of the rich and famous and the pricey wines they drink; Robert M. Parker Jr.'s Wine Advocate is more serious but still tends to specialize in higher-priced and hard-to-fine "cult" wines. If you find you aren't buying many of the wines reviewed in these costly publications, consider whether the subscription price is returning its value. (Would it be rude to mention that The 30 Second Wine Advisor is free? Most of the wines I review fall under $20, and we're making a special effort to find as many $10 beauties as possible during the economic crisis.)

* Finally, drink better but less. If the quest for quality $10 wines simple doesn't work for you but you still need to save, consider this strategy: Limit your fine-wine enjoyment to special nights - and that might simply mean Saturday night - and spend a little more for one weekly bottle than you might have previously paid down for three or four bottles per week.

In short, there are plenty of ways to minimize the financial pain without giving up wine entirely. I'd like to hear yours!

For today's tasting report, we focus on a very attractive French wine in the $10 range. Cellier des Dauphins 2005 "Prestige" Cotes du Rhone, a typical Southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cinsault grapes.

Cellier des Dauphins 2005 "Prestige" Cotes du Rhone ($10.99)

Clear dark garnet, with bright reddish-violet glints. Subtle raspberries and earth, an attractive, Euro-style combination on the nose and palate. Mouth-filling and ripe, juicy mixed-berry fruit and fresh-fruit acidity, more than acidic enough for balance but sufficiently restrained to make this a good candidate for sipping as a glass of red wine. On the other hand, it's so food-friendly that it would be a shame not to enjoy it with beef, poultry or cheese. A typical Southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cinsault grapes. U.S. importer: Bercut-Vandervoort & Co., Brisbane, Calif. (Sept. 24, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: Good with red meat or poultry; its snappy fruit flavors made a great match with a Franco-Italian creation, lamb meatballs simmered in a little beef broth with fresh tomatoes and herbs and served over conchiglie pasta.

VALUE: Very good value at the $10 price point, a neighborhood that's becoming increasingly attractive in rough economic times.

WHEN TO DRINK: Simple Cotes du Rhone is best enjoyed young and fresh, although this wine isn't likely to lose its fruit over the next couple of years, assuming reasonably good storage.

WEB LINK: The Website of Cellier des Dauphins, the cooperative Union des Vignerons des Cotes du Rhone, appears to detect your computer's language and select English or French for you automatically. To go direct to the English-language home page, click
http://www.cellier-des-dauphins.com/cdd/gb/default.html
Then select "product range" and then work down to "Cotes du Rhone" to find a short fact sheet on today's wine.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Find vendors and check prices for Cellier des Dauphins Cotes du Rhone on Wine-Searcher.com:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Dauph ... g_site=WLP

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Paul Noga » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:19 pm

Robin, I thought you gave rather good advice, with the exception being the slam at the Wine Spectator. They do provide reviews and articles about wines costing hundreds of dollars a bottle. I have never (and probably never will) buy anything that expensive. But each issue's buying guide contains "smart buys" that are usually capped in the low $20's, and "best buys" that run from less than $10 to the mid teens.

With each major story on a wine growing area they usually provide a listing of the best values in addition to the top scorers, and often feature entire articles summing up hundreds of well reviewed wines costing $15 or less. In addition, their online wine search allows you to select price points, such as $10 and under or $20 and under.

I subscribe because of those reviews, not for the high priced articles. I know you may disagree with how they rate wines, and that is fair game, but it is unfair and inaccurate to suggest they deal with only the expensive stuff most of us will never taste.

BTW, I am not affiliated with WS in any way, just someone who has subscribed for many years.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:36 pm

Robin Garr wrote:In short, there are plenty of ways to minimize the financial pain without giving up wine entirely. I'd like to hear yours!


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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby RonicaJM » Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:10 pm

We've decided to cut back to weekend consumption only and special occaisions. I also have tried many of the WS smart buys and have been happy with several.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Dave R » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:16 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Your 401(k) is a mere shadow of its former self.


In my case it is now a 201(k).

I have not purchased a bottle of wine in approximately 1 1/2 years. If I want wine I invite myself over to a friend or neighbor's house and drink their wine. If you spread it out right you only hit the same house once per month and no one gets suspicious. I also try to time it so I arrive at the beginning of dinner so I also get a meal out of the visit. I keep a detailed database of who eats what and when. For example, Bob and Cindy's kids have soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights so I know they do not eat until 7:30 on those nights and I plan accordingly so I arrive around 7:40 and not 8:30 when all the food is gone. And the Kellers around the block always eat frozen fish sticks (which I loathe) on Friday nights at 6:30 so I get there at 5:30, drink as much as I can in an hour then go over to Tom and Judy's house because they always have pizza at 7:00 on Friday nights and who would not rather have pizza than the Gorton Fisherman's lousy fish sticks. Oh, and I always take home leftovers (even if they are not offered) because that's lunch for the next day.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:24 pm

Paul Noga wrote:Robin, I thought you gave rather good advice, with the exception being the slam at the Wine Spectator.

Paul, received with respect, but I'm sticking to my opinion that if an average wine enthusiast is trying to cut back on wine related expenses, dropping the Spectator and Parker is a good place to start. Sure, they offer "good buy" advice, but it's a small portion of the whole; and I don't find that their taste buds align well with mine even in the low-end niche.

I certainly don't expect everyone to take my advice, and you're certainly entitled to keep up your subscription. But I'll leave that recommendation intact at least as something for each individual to consider.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:33 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Paul Noga wrote:Robin, I thought you gave rather good advice, with the exception being the slam at the Wine Spectator.

Paul, received with respect, but I'm sticking to my opinion that if an average wine enthusiast is trying to cut back on wine related expenses, dropping the Spectator and Parker is a good place to start. Sure, they offer "good buy" advice, but it's a small portion of the whole; and I don't find that their taste buds align well with mine even in the low-end niche.


Well as the resident (very reluctant) Parker defender, I will say that he just devoted an entire, 100+ page issue to wines under $25. Now I know that does not align with your $10 recommendation above, but many of the wines in the issue were in the $15 or less range. And you continue to tar the entire Wine Advocate as Parker's palate. David Schildknecht is not Parker. Neal Martin is not Parker. Antonio Galoni is not Parker. Jay Miller is not...err...ok Jay Miller is Parker on steroids.

The point is that there's a lot of great value advice in the Wine Advocate & they do a really good job of pointing it out. Even in non-value focus issues they make a specific point of mentioning the steals in the text.

Wine Spectator does not do nearly as good a job of pointing out a wide range of values.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Paul Noga » Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:30 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Paul Noga wrote:Robin, I thought you gave rather good advice, with the exception being the slam at the Wine Spectator.

Paul, received with respect, but I'm sticking to my opinion that if an average wine enthusiast is trying to cut back on wine related expenses, dropping the Spectator and Parker is a good place to start. Sure, they offer "good buy" advice, but it's a small portion of the whole; and I don't find that their taste buds align well with mine even in the low-end niche.


Robin, I think the question gets down to where does one find advice on low cost wines that one trusts and respects. Your newsletter is certainly one source, but many of us probably prefer multiple sources, including other publications, tastings, whatever. If you don't have the same palate as those at WS or WA, obviously, and regardless of price, they are not for you. But that wasn't the question at hand.

WS reviews sometimes thousands of new wines each issue. The bulk of them are too expensive for my budget. But do you throw the baby out with the bathwater? I know I'm not going to buy an Antinori Solaia for $300, so I read the rating of 97 with amusement. I also know I'm not going out to buy 1500 different wine that month, so the fact that a good deal of them are excluded isn't an issue either. What does matter is whether or not I'm getting a reasonable number of price performers per issue. So, I check the smart buys and best values each month as well as synposes on regions, or read whole cover articles (Oct. 15, 2008 - VALUES - More than 200 $15 or Less).

And also consider that WS includes not only reviews, but articles on wine regions and wine makers, restaurants, travel, food, news on the industry and other related topics. If it costs me $50 a year for all that then I consider I've made a wise investment to get the most out of my wine budget as well as learn a lot.

Each person has to make a decision, but, with respect as well, I have to disagree that WS doesn't provide a substantial number of reviews of less expensive wines. Those, as well as all the other articles, make it worth my dollar, and it is the only magazine I have subscribed to for years.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Wine and hard times

Postby Mark Noah » Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:39 am

Robin,

You state "it's a small portion of the whole" and I agree with the statement. However, when recommending wine, there is only so much value (think under $25) wine out there. Ten years ago that was not the case. Maybe even five years. But now, that is the case. And both publications point out the values well.

I rarely read the Spectator anymore, but still have great respect for what they've done for the world of wine. They have put wine in many a household. They've turned wine into "the drink to have".

Robert Parker hasn't reached near as many households, but he's been instrumental in breaking the balls of wineries/winemakers resting on their laurels. How can anyone say he hasn't been good for the industry?

Anyway, I also enjoy your site. Thanks

mark
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