Years ago in a former incarnation I found myself in Dallas for a major showroom opening. The after-dinner speaker that evening was Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus fame, the Mahatma Gandhi of high-end retail. Sometime after 9:00 pm he stood up and without ever glancing at a note, held everyone in the palm of his hand for over twenty minutes. He closed with following comment which I have never forgotten. He said: “I am 80 years old and there has been only one thing…one rule that has remained constant my whole life.” Everybody, and I mean everybody in that room held their breath and waited; it was as if he was about to tell us the meaning of life. Stanley Marcus continued: “in my whole life the only rule you could count on was….everything changes.”
Now, how does that relate to wine?
Once upon a time, wine producers needed only to be concerned with the “reach” of their distributor and the power of branding…not anymore. Vineyards and wineries have gone viral. Europe, South Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia, all have exploded, and in the U.S.A. over 35 states produce wine. The marketplace is filled with savvy experienced customers. It’s hard to find a wine drinker who doesn’t know where Rioja is from or who Robert Parker is. At the very least everyone can count, 91 points has got to be better than 87 (right?).
Wine can be bought everywhere, and I am here to tell you that you can buy good wine almost everywhere. Don’t let price misguide you. There is wonderful wine to be had between $8.00 and $18.00…yes I said eight dollars. The oversupply of good “juice” is a global phenomenon. Between the over expansion of the industry and the current recession, vineyards have excess tonnage. Obscure blenders are buying grapes for a fraction of what they might have paid in the past, for varietals of a quality they never could have access too. Last year a blender/ bottler named Redtree produced a Pinot Noir that was a staggering pour….price: $6.99 in California, $8.99 in Maine if you could get it. (I tried but couldn’t). In Europe, cooperatives are creating value never seen before, while famous vineyards throughout the Continent try to figure out what to do with yet another excellent vintage and the attendant high yields. All of this has got to be good news for us.
They say Pinot Noir is a white wine masquerading as a red. If that’s true it has to be the perfect bottle to bring along when you’re not sure of what’s being served. Fish, fowl, vegetarian, you can’t go wrong. It’s said you can read the New York Times through a glass of it. If anybody manages to do that please come out to the Walpole Barn, we need to talk.