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Wine in the “new” economy

2009 March 3

Instead of calling it an economic downturn or recession, my wife has started calling it the “new”economy. It seems appropriate since so few Americans remember the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and for most of us this is something very new. This new economy has, with few exceptions, changed our lifestyles. Everything from what we eat, where we vacation, to how often we go out of the house has changed significantly because of money worries. I know that my spending habits have definitely changed and will continue to change when I lose my job in June.

I’m subscribed to several wineries’ wine clubs and a few send me shipments every quarter.  With the exception of old-world Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, this is pretty much my higher-end wine spending for the time being, at least until I have to tighten my belt another notch.  Does that mean I have to cut back on my wine drinking and enjoyment?  Not if shop around and find some wine bargains.  By now, you’ve probably heard that $15 is the new $30 for wine.  Well, I take that one step further and say that $6 is the new $15 wine and for everyday consumption, I’ve actually found quite a few good $6 wines which I’ll write about in the weeks to come.

What does this downturn in conspicuous consumption of wine mean for the high-end producers?  I guess that depends on who you talk to.  Many of my friends are still gainfully employed with good steady jobs or are in a position to easily weather several months of unemployment.  Perhaps they’re in denial, but for some, their wine spending doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all.  Many of my wine drinking friends are always looking for bargains, but I can’t be sure if they are buying less because of economic concerns or simply because their cellars are getting full.

For those friends who are producers of high-end wine, I know many are falling on hard times because the credit crunch has a direct impact on their ability to expand operations and purchase fruit and the necessary supplies for this year’s harvest and beyond. Falling sales figures of high-end wines don’t look good to lenders who now scrutinize credit-worthiness more than ever.

For me personally, I’ve already committed to a few bottles of Betz wines but I won’t be buying my allocation of the current release of Harlan Estate’s or Silver Oak’s cabernets. Especially when my previous purchases are worth less now than when I bought them. I don’t think this will cause Silver Oak to go under considering they just finished building a multi-million dollar tasting facility in Oakville. Likewise, to the boutique Syrahs and Pinot Noirs that I get every Fall. I may not stop my purchases altogether, but I certainly won’t be buying cases of them.

And next month, when my wife and I go to Napa for a long weekend, I will probably only buy the obligatory bottle at those wineries that waive the tasting fees as an industry courtesy. Sorry Swanson Vineyards, but I won’t be buying any of your wine no matter how good it is when you insist on charging me $55/person to taste.

Has your wine spending changed because of the economy?  Let me know; what’s your new paradigm when it comes to wine?

Copyright © 2009, Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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