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The supply side of the wine glut

by George Balling
| December 3, 2010 8:00 PM

The current state of the economy and more specifically the "wineconomy" has resulted in many bargains to be had in wine as we have talked about before. The supply side of this wine glut though, is yet another silver lining to the dark economic clouds that overhang the wine world.

Back in the good old days of the booming economy there were many wineries that had no problem selling all of their juice at big prices with restrictions on how much you could order, that is assuming of course, you had cleared the months long or year long waiting lists to place an order. The wines that did make it to distribution to North Idaho were at times dubbed "restaurant only," which technically is contrary to Idaho liquor law. The loop hole though is that the desired restaurants were just shown the wine prior to retailers giving them the chance to buy it out first.

The other bad news is that it indoctrinated many local wine consumers to the habit of ordering only direct from the winery, bypassing local merchants and sending their wine dollars all out of state.

As the economy has softened though much has changed; there are still wineries who command the same restrictions on the buying public. Wineries like Cayuse and Quilceda Creek from Washington and Radio Coteau and Bryant Family from California are still commanding top dollar and are restricted to those lucky enough to be on their mailing list, or on the list of designated restaurants, but that population of wineries is rapidly thinning.

The list of those producers who are broadening their market approach, and loosening previous restrictions is far longer. As retailers we now have on the shelf names like Harlan Estate and their second label Bond, we now see every varietal from Pride Mountain Vineyards, and Russian River Valley producers Merry Edwards and Dumol have left the restaurant-only lists and now are available retail. Additionally, Turley and related winery Failla make it through the door with their full line-up.

In the Northwest too we see more wineries we can access and more wines from previously restricted ones. Abeja and Brian Carter from Washington are two we are very excited about. Storied Washington winery Leonetti is now easier than ever to attain across their portfolio. Oregon Pinot producers like Domaine Serene, Ken Wright too have more availability in the retail market.

For wine consumers this is all great news, with opportunities to not only save on shipping cost and hassle of delivery from the wineries, but also to keep your dollars in the local community too. A couple of pointers though to help ensure you will get your hands on your most sought after producers. Always ask about wines you may want to buy. Even if your local wine shop does not have the wine on the shelf they may have it somewhere else in their shop. At the very least by asking your favorite shop owner they can add you to the list for the next time they get the wine in.

Concentrate your buying with a single shop. Even though these wines are more available than ever they are still sought after. By working mainly with one retailer they will get to know your likes and dislikes better. Your business is meaningful to local retailers too so they are likely to ensure you get your favorite wines.

Finally, stay up to date on when your favorite wineries release the varietals you like the most. Your local wine professional can help here too, as we keep close track of releases year round although most new vintages are released in spring and fall.

While price is important to all of us, this is a great opportunity for all of us to get easy local access to some prized bottlings and therefore guarantee access to them for years to come.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d'Alene Press.

George Balling is co-owner with his wife Mary Lancaster of the dinner party a wine and table top decor shop in Coeur d'Alene by Costco. George is also the managing judge of The North Idaho Wine Rodeo. www.thedinnerpartyshop.com .

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