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Wine as economic indicator?
Do fine wine sales trends serve as an early indicator of coming economic times?
Sales of "mid-level" wines - those priced at $30 to $70 per bottle at retail - may offer a better economic barometer than either high-end trophy wines or mass-market bottles, according to Master Sommelier Alexander LaPratt.
"The middle wines are where you see the impacts of recession," LaPratt told Forbes.com contributor Joe Harpaz, who quoted the sommelier in his Sept. 10 Forbes.com report, "Wine As Economic Indicator: Do Sales Of $50 Pinots And Merlots Predict Our Economy's Future?"
"At the high end, where people are spending $100 or more for a bottle of wine, that kind of spending is pretty much recession-proof and influenced by other factors like vintage and seasonality," said LaPratt, who is sommelier at Atrium DUMBO restaurant in Brooklyn.
"But the $30-$70 range can be hit pretty hard by changes in disposable income. That's where we really see the most economic sensitivity in wines," LaPratt said, adding that sales of "ultra-high-end" wines that sell for $100 a bottle or more seem relatively "recession-proof."
I've always been struck by a sad economic indicator at the other end of the price ladder, which suggests that the sales of cheap alcohol go up during hard times, hinting at the unhappy reality of alcohol as anodyne for hardscrabble depression. But that's another story for another day.
As for me, even in good times I have a hard time justifying a $70 bottle, and even a $30 wine-shop price tag strikes me as a splurge reserved for a special occasion. Add a few bucks more when you're dealing with the restaurant wine-list markup, but still. It's no coincidence that my wine musings have always focused on "Quality-Price Ratio" as expressed in wines that, in the current market, retail in the $10 to $25 range.
How about you? Just for fun, I've set up an online poll, hoping to take a casual snapshot of wine lovers' behavior when it comes to wine and hard times. Click here to take the poll and view the results on our WineLovers Discussion Group forum.
(You'll have to register in the forum to "vote," but it's free and easy; we ask only that you join following our Real Names Real Format system, using your real name as your public user name. To join the forum, drop me a note at email@example.com with your real name, preferred format and a temporary password, and I'll take care of the rest.)
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As a 30-Second Wine Advisor Reader, you are invited to shop The California Wine Club's $1 Shipping Fall Wine Sale.
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$1 Shipping Fall Wine Sale ends on September 30, 2014.
About The California Wine Club:
California is home to thousands of small family wineries handcrafting extraordinary wine in quantities too limited to be found in local stores or shops. In 1990 wine club founders Bruce and Pam Boring discovered that these winemaking families were the most passionate in the wine world and that their wines were the hidden gems of wine country! Together Bruce and Pam embarked on a journey to help these artisan wineries introduce their exquisite wines to the world. Learn more.
Today's Tasting Report
Michlits 2013 "BioKult" Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner ($14.99)
Made by Austria's largest organic grape producer, this wine is certified organic by Austrian Bio Garantie, and meets standards of the US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program Certified Grapes. It's clear light gold in color. Fresh citric lemon-lime on first tasting, adding a touch of "wet wool" and a faint whiff of white pepper as it opens in the glass. Rather rich for a GV, some aromatic peach over citrus on the palate. Light petillance ( a hint of prickly carbonation on the tongue), gentle 11.5% alcohol,, and a subtle edge of minerality, "rainwater over rocks," that becomes more apparent with time in the glass. U.S. importer: Natural Merchants LLC., Rogue River, Ore. (Aug. 15, 2014)
FOOD MATCH: Good with summer garden bounty, it made a fine match with a pilaf of fresh broccoli and heirloom tomatoes.
WHEN TO DRINK: Best drunk up while it's young and fresh, although a few weeks in the fridge or a year or two on the wine rack aren't likely to damage it.
VALUE: It's a good value in the lower to middle teens. Wine-Searcher.com shows its median US retail price at $13.
This wine is also available in the U.S. at Whole Foods wine shops.
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