Wine Talk

Snooth User: WineGent

Great Wine, Great Vintages, Great Prices

Posted by WineGent, Jul 30, 2008.

The US economy has been tough for the past few years, and the US dollar has lost a lot of ground against the EURO and other currencies. This translates to higher costs for most commodities, including wine.

Some of my favorite wines are from the Rhone region of France. Chateneauf du Pape, Cornas, Gigondas are just some of the styles I love. While shopping for these wines late last year, my salesperson told me to look through the catalog for some of the older vintages that they still had in stock. I was amazed at how much cheaper I could buy some of these older vintages versus the new releases.

Instead of purchasing the new vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape, I opted to stock up on the better producers for the years 1998 through 2003. The retailer bought these wines years ago at a price significantly lower then the new vintage. Many retailers have held the pricing on these wines to encourage sales and to deplete their inventory. This offers an opportunity for wine lovers to grab a real bargain.

Why wouldn’t you consider buying past vintages of quality winemakers? The wine has had some time to develop in the bottle possibly improving in character. Most often the tannins soften providing a better drinking experience. Most importantly, you can save a few dollars allowing you to buy better wine for the same price.

In every city you can find a retailer that has past vintages stored in a temperature controlled warehouse. Many have on-line catalogs that allow you to peruse what wines and vintages are available. In Washington, DC, I buy from McArthur Beverage, Calvert Woodley - and Schneiders - . All of these stores have past vintages that are available to purchase.

If you are not in the DC area, check the larger stores in your specific area to see if they have a web presence. You can also inquire with the stores directly regarding availability of past vintages.

Good luck, and let me know what bargains you find! I will share them in a future article.


Reply by danieboi, May 29, 2010.

that's a great idea.  I always thought the opposite was true:  older vintages go up in price to such a degree that they are out of reach.  But your comments make sense -- these winnes were purchased when the dollar was stronger, and they are sitting around taking up space.

Reply by Degrandcru, May 31, 2010.

True, but just for the moment. Due to the Euro crisis the Euro weakened a lot in the past few months and the Dollar is at a five year high compared to the Euro. If this trend continues it could turn around quickly and new vintages become less expensive.

Reply by GregT, May 31, 2010.

Danieboi - it's not always that easy.

SOME older vintages are good buys and even great buys.  Port for example, is one of those where you can find older vintages for roughly the same as current vintages.  That's because the market for Port is pretty small.  No demand = no price pressure.

In SOME cases you can find older wines from the Rhone as well as other regions in France, Italy, Spain, Australia and the US that are selling for good prices.

In many cases that is because there was never a huge market for those wines to begin with.  Often they came out to big scores or press but the supply exceeded demand. In some cases they were new wines or new cuvees w/out much history.

However, in the top tier, that's just not the case.  You don't often find Haut Brion discounted, or Rayas, or Vega Sicilia Unico, or any number of other wines with track records.  So taking the Rhone for example, if you look at the top names from the N. Rhone and you find those priced lower than current releases and they're from good vintages, let me know.  And from the south, the top names from CdP aren't likely to be discounted much either.  Especially the darlings of critics.

That said, if you know what you're looking at, there are some really great deals around, especially on the second-stringers.  And I don't mean second string in terms of quality, just in terms of press and demand.  The wines I tend to buy are never at the top of the list for critics, although that may change after last month, we'll have to see.  

Overlaid on everything else is the current economy and I"ve posted about that elsewhere but the dumping of wine into the marketplace has really made it a buyer's market for now.  So you occasionally find a few wines that you're just amazed are being discounted but the importer/distributor is dumping the line or something similar and you may as well take advantage of it.  Wines from Priorat for example, are popping up.  They came out in the 1990s, prices ramped up every vintage, and now the market isn't looking for those.  Some of the "garagiste" and small producers elsewhere too - Napa is full of producers who are discounting, for example.  

Of course, the issue is always storage. Especially if the retailers are buying private collections, like many are.

Regarding the pricing - that depends on the retailer.  Some of them don't mark up the wines to current levels, others do. Right now the dollar/euro exchange rate isn't all that bad.

But for bargains, the best is to go over to Europe.  I've found wine at great prices in little shops and cellars; wine that you almost never see over here for those prices.  It kind of pays for the trip if you stock up enough!

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