As it turns outs the busiest time for a wine consumer like me is not around the holidays or any other special event. The busiest time of year is during the winery offering periods. This is the time where the wineries that sell their wines through allocation make them available to their mailing lists. It usually happens twice a year. Once in late winter (prior the spring releases) and late summer (prior to the fall releases). However, right now I'm in one of those most difficult of periods as a wine consumer.
What is a winery allocation? Is it different than a wine club? Yes they are different but in ways they are the same.
• A winery allocation is permission given to an individual to purchase wine. The amount of wine is that can be purchased is limited to certain number or allocation. An allocation is not guaranteed and you don't have to buy your full allocation.
• A wine club reserves wine for people that are members. They generally ship what the winery wants to send and wine is not offered … just delivered.
• For more information, I have blogged about wine clubs and mailing lists before: http://www.snooth.com/talk/#http://www.snooth.com/talk/topic/wine-clubs-1/
To date I have received email and regular make from more than a dozen wineries letting me know that there spring releases are now available for purchase. They are from wineries like:
• Bond Estate
• Williams Selyem
• Kosta Browne
• Lancaster Estate
• Peay Vineyards
• Loring Wine Company
• Scarecrow Wine
• Arista Winery
• Paul Hobbs Winery
• Flowers Vineyards & Winery
Most of these are smaller producers. Some of these are considered cult wine producers. This means there production is limited, the allocation offer is time encapsulated and the prices, well the prices are usually higher. With some of the wineries, where allocations are small and my future allocations will depend on what I buy now. Throw in that allocations are not guaranteed as mentioned above and my stress level rises. There are so many good wines but not enough money for me to make purchases.
With a tight economy and sales of high end wine suffering it would seem that now would be a great time for bargains. However, with these wineries that does not seem to be the case. These high-end, smaller production wineries have waiting lists for their wines that are often 4 to 5 times the size of the list that actually gets allocation. Usually, this means waiting multiple years before you get onto the main list. It also means that to get on the main list one of two things must happen:
1. A production increase or
2. Someone drops off the list.
Only then can someone move up the list. The economic conditions may not have created the deals I was expecting but has caused more people to be drop out of these winery mailing lists. This is what has happened to me. I had not expected to get allocations from some of these wineries but now I do. I've been bumped into the mainstream list and I have tough decisions to make. Where do I spend my money and how much? It is definitely great to have so much great wine available to me. I just wish I had the money to take advantage of it.
John Andrews is a software product manager during the week and is a professional Tasting Room staffer at Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen, CA on the weekends.