I’ve said repeatedly that the current period of economic turmoil represents one of the greatest wine buyer’s markets in recent years.
As always, it comes down to supply and demand. The pipeline is choked with expensive wine that few people are buying, most of it from California. This has led producers and middlemen to offer significant discounts, few of which are turning up in retail stores. For a winery, the situation is troubling—what’s the best way to shed excess inventory without degrading the image of your brand among consumers?
For many producers, the solution is the proliferation of flash sale websites that have suddenly appeared in the past few months. Most of them are patterned on Wine Woot (www.wine.woot.com), which launched in 2006 and was acquired by Amazon this year. The premise of the flash sale website is simple. A single wine is offered for sale, usually one each day, at prices that are drastically below average retail. The committed bargain hunters can snag it, but the deeply discounted wine isn’t displayed for all to see in a brick and mortar store. At the end of the day, it disappears.
On a recent morning, I did a survey of some of these sites. The average discount for domestic wine was hovering around 25%. Wine Spies (www.winespies.com) featured Robert Stemmler Carneros Pinot Noir 2006 for $27 (normally $35). On Wine Heist (www.wineheist.com), the Fess Parker Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was reduced from $45 to $31. Prices for imports were about the same, occasionally lower. Cinderella Wine (www.cinderellawine.com) offered the 2006 Pouilly-Fuissé les Combettes from Chateau Fuissé for $38, down from $52; on Cellar Thief (www.cellarthief.com), I could buy the 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champs Gain from Jouard for $40 rather than $60.
Some of these sites require that you register and set up an account (www.vinfolio.com, www.wineryinsider.com, www.wineshopper.com). Of course, they can only send wine to states where direct shipping is legal; currently there are about 35, but this may change drastically if HR 5034 passes. Some sites offer free shipping on orders of various sizes.
There are currently about one dozen flash sale websites selling discounted wine, with possibly more to come. Enjoy the phenomenon while it lasts.