Friday, June 19, 2009

Importers Taking A Page From The Wallmart Playbook...Rolling Back Prices


Our Burgundy department is not massive but it is deep, and by that I mean I don’t stock a bunch of different producers but I carry many wines from the producers I do stock. These are estates I trust, have rarely, (c’mon we are talking Burgundy here) let me down and whose wines I believe put the spotlight where it belongs…on the vineyard and the soil. When Randy opened the store he stocked the department with all the big names and many tiny producers he had fallen in love with over the years, problem was….no one in our area was really “aware” of Burgundy and honestly Randy himself had fallen out of favor with the region, he found the wines were more often than not, thin, rough, shrill and down-right heartbreaking. He didn’t feel good recommending them and after a couple of years he had a HUGE blowout sale, we’re talking DRC for $49.99 kind of sale here.

There are 2 red tag guns in the store, the regular red tag gun and the Randy red tag gun. When I taste a wine I feel should be reduced in price I make sure to ask that it be “red tagged” or “Randy red tagged” the latter being a wine that needs to go…now, so like a $50 wine reduced to $19.99, that is, “Randy red tagged” way below cost and priced to MOVE.

Seeing that I was trained at The Wine Country, and under Randy, I had little or no experience with Burgundy and honestly had a bit of a negative lean as I had heard so much grumbling from my beloved teacher. It was with this attitude I was sent to France for the first time, for 25 days, to travel with a French wine importer and learn….our first stop was a lunch in Champagne, (Agrapart) and then 6 days in Beaune, to taste those bemoaned wines that I knew virtually nothing about…it took two days, two days for me to fall madly in love and to be forever changed…seduced by aromatics, smoky vineyards, dark cold cellars and wines that had an almost sexual appeal, to me anyway….standing in a freezing cellar, watching the white puffs of warm air escape my chest, burring my nose in a glass…rose petals, smoke, soy, black cherry, mushroom….I was punch drunk before even taking a sip.

After an afternoon heart pounding wine exploration followed by a dinner rich in the regions flavors, and personalities I called Randy, (3 am France time) and told him, “I want to take over the Burgundy department”. I blathered on and on with the voice and intensity of the just-been- kissed, Randy listened, chuckled and I’m pretty sure he was rejuvenated to re-explore those wines that he had long since given up on. It took a year or so, and a few “Randy red tags” but we now have a Burgundy department that we are both not only happy with, but that inspires both of us and is the one area in the store where we both lose our minds over bottles consumed over meals and cannot wait to tell each other, and our customers about it.

Now as a girl with, “Non-Traditional” tattooed on her body, that is for my personal style…not for the wines I adore, in wine I get weak-kneed over the more traditional, rustic and wines that speak with a heavy accent or tell me about their homeland with whiffs of sun baked clay or roasted herbs, our Burgundy department reflects that, and no amount of coaxing by suppliers or telling me that people want “brands they recognize” is going to change that. I have to love them to sell them, so it has been pretty easy to turn down all the closeout offerings from Jadot, Dujac, and all the other Domaines that we don’t carry, even if I put them on the shelf with their drastically reduced price tags….I just can’t, in good faith sell them, and “Well, it’s $10 less a bottle” just don’t sing as a selling tactic.

These reduced Burgundy offers have been coming in fast and furious over the past few months, distributors and importers looking to move some higher end wine by slashing the prices aggressively, it’s tempting but I have stood firm, not to mention I have not been tasted on the wines and I rarely buy wines blind. I was holding out hope that some of our standard producers would be slashing prices but as of yet…not happening, so in not so short…we were just making do with what we had, that was until I got a call the other day, “My French wine rep is going to be in your area with a few bottles open, do you have some time?” the call caught me in the middle of helping a customer so I didn’t even think to ask which wines he might have, I just said, “Sure” and got back to what I was doing.

When I sat down in the tasting room and took a gander I was a bit dismayed to see that they were all Burgundy, and ones that I have never carried, “Dammit” I thought, “the last thing we need is more Burgundy in this market” just as the words left my melon the sales rep said, “I’m looking to get some quick cash” I was floored by his honesty and I flipped open my notebook and sat ready to take notes. We ran through the wines and I honestly loved all but three of them, (and those weren’t bad either…just already have better) then he gave me the low down on the pricing…dude, you gotta be yanking my chain! He was not, most were at least $10 off a bottle and in some cases up to $20 off…unbelievable and I had to order a few things, these wines were kickass at their original prices but at these drastically reduced prices….stoopid, just stoopid.

(Wines to arrive at The Wine Country the first couple of weeks in July)

2007 Les Vigneron d’Ige Macon Ige Sous la Roche, (regular price $18.99 new price $11.99)
Vibrant red apple skin on the nose with just a bit of citrus rind and toasted bread, on the palate the wine is full without being chunky and has just hint of warm honey of the fleshy but clean finish.

2006 Bachey-Legros Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau, (regular $44.99 now $27.99)
This was the wine that really raised my eyebrow, full of all that sexy fruit, smoke and gamey meat aromas that make the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Seductive red fruit, charred meat and spice with a lovely purity, medium mouth feel and a nice little tannic spike on the back.

2006 Henri Delagrange Aloxe-Corton Les Caillettes, (regular $46.88 now $27.99)
Packed with an almost cherry cola like flavor, with a stark but intriguing herby flavor, the mouth feel is sultry and the finish is all warm stones and mushrooms. Powerful both on fruit and tannin this wine would really flesh out with a couple years in the cellar.

2006 Henri Delagrange Pommard 1er Cru Les Bertins, (regular $75.99 now $46.99)
Damn, damn, all meat, charred, smoke and soy on the nose upfront but after a spin or two in the glass there is this solid core of black fruit and cooking spice. The mouth feel is round and a bit rough but in a good way, pure fruit and earth come through on the massive grippy finish, would do well with a serious decant or a few years tucked away, to show all that it has to offer.


Nancy Deprez said...

Wow, awesome on the Burgundy rolled-back prices! Gotta love that. :)

Nancy Deprez said...

Great also that you turned the Burgundy department around! That's quite a feat!!

Samantha Dugan said...

The Burgundy department is a joint effort, or was when I first got way I was gonna jump in with both green feet. We worked together Randy and I before he felt okay setting me free. Now it's mostly me but when Randoo tastes something that flips his lid, he buys it! All good by me as I think he has a fantastic palate and his passion for great Burgundy is back on track.

K Claret said...


Good to hear about burgundy prices! I am back on the east coast now after my trip to Napa. I really want to be back there! It is a little late but congrats that your lakers took the title!



Tish said...

Wow. Yesterday I bought some Girardin "Les Gravieres" 05 Santenay for $25 and thought it was once in a lifetime price. NOw I am psyched to look forward to more deals...
Strange days, these....

Samantha Dugan said...

Hope you had an amazing trip, I always love hearing about people enjoying their time up in Napa...we are, (and by we I mean those of us that live in California and work in the biz) can be a bit jaded...nice to be reminded how lovely and romantic it can be.

The things I am seeing from importers are staggering, some things 60% off on both 2005 and 2006, really rather remarkable. The only problem for retailers, is business has been pretty soft, so it's not like we can just load up on these things....well, we can't anyway. Man, do I wish we could stockpile this stuff. Thanks for posting!