ablegrape.com — A (very) worthwhile site to bookmark

Us winegeeks have been waiting a long time for this! A relatively new website (still in beta version) has been released to the public: www.ablegrape.com.

Think of ANYTHING wine related to type in … odd grape varieties, names, producers, regions, AOC’s … anything! Then watch how you research wine on the internet change forever!

Retail idea: The ‘Recession Buster’

When the economy takes a downturn (or there’s some economic concern in general) we see a few key patterns emerge in the retail wine sector:

  • Sales of high end wines tend to go toward the more historical and established names with a reputation for consistent high quality (Montelena, Jordan, Shafer, etc.). Unproven, higher priced new brands tend to have a difficult time in a market like this.
  • Jane Q. Public is far less likely to buy on a whim, and she wants to know key information about what she’s buying beyond somebody saying ‘It’s good’.
  • People want a bargain, or a least a deal, or at a bare minimum a sale.

So what can you do? It’s amazing how a few simple adjustments can dramatically improve sales.

  • Group the ‘tried and true‘ higher end wines together. Put one sign under all of them.  (Even something as simple as “The Tried and True” can make all the difference in the world.)
  • Be sure key information is available through detailed shelftalkers, rather than just a rating or review snippit. Food pairings like “Pizza and burgers” helps the average joe feel that wine is a beverage and not just for special occasions.
  • Make a deal for the customer: buy two bottles and save some money. Regularly $14.99, buy two for $28.00. In the end, the customer is saving less than 10%; but the sense of getting a better price than normal dominates. Or buy six bottles of Italian wine and save 20%. Or any wine with a screwcap is 15% off this month only (call it the “Screwed Economy” sale!?!?). Even the smallest of deals/offers/sales can keep them coming to you instead of the competition.

The amazing 2006 central Italy vintage is starting to arrive

Sanigiovese in Chianti ClassicoThe wines from the 2006 vintage in Tuscany and Umbria are now starting to arrive in Minnesota (Badia a Coltibuono Cetamura, Falesco Vitiano, and others) … and this is a vintage to take special note of. Awarded five stars (highest rating) by Decanter Magazine, this might very well be a central Italy vintage to rival the amazing 2001 and 1999 bottlings. The photo on the left is Sangiovese from the heart of Chianti Classico on the first week on September 2006. Notice the even ripening and great color … and the grapes tasted great!

Initial tastes of the 2006 wines from Tuscany, Umbria, and Molise are showing dark fruit, strong structure, and pretty intense personality when they first arrived. After a small bit of time they are harmonizing into lush wines, the quintessential ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’.

On a future post: why you should buy as much 2004 Barolo and Barbaresco as you can possibly afford.

Dramatic evidence of Australia’s drought

We’ve been hearing about the drought in Australia, how it has been eight years since the last significant rainfall that has filled the catchbasins (used for essential vineyard irrigation). Maybe it’s because we live in the land of 10,000 lakes and I get to see water almost every day, but the drought in Australia never seems to sink in for me.

Ten days ago I took this photo of the water reserve pond at Heggie’s Vineyard in Eden Valley (famous for delicious Riesling). As recently as seven years ago the water lapped at the bottom of the dock. As you can see, they are in crisis mode, and this story is repeated by many wineries in Barossa, Eden Valley, and McClaren Vale. Keep this image in mind the next time you taste any wines from South Australia.

Heggie’s Vineyard, Eden Valley Australia, Water retention pond

The customized flight

Concerned about Monday through Thursday business? Here’s an idea.

Offer the regular list of by the glass options. Then offer a customized flight of any three wines for simply the averaged price of the glasses. Watch the wine crowd come out of the woodwork!

I saw this at a wine bar in San Francisco in January 2008. It was a Wednesday night at 5:30 pm, the bistro was 2/3 full, and over half of the customers had a flight in front of them. The best part was this: when I mentioned I love Rhones, the manager offered to open a couple of bottle only selections to complete my flight … “don’t worry about the rest of the bottle, we’ll sell it off tonight!” No worries was right … people were there to drink wine!

Anything you can do to attract the wine crowd on ‘off nights’ can only help your bottom line. There is no downside.