Booze Buzz: Luxury-End WIne Steals

As the fabric of the economy continues to get ripped like a victim in a slasher movie, at least we can look on the bright side: the eco-doldrums have exposed some real silver linings. For wine lovers in particular, there never may be a better time then now to snap up real bargains at the high end of the market.

Daniel Posner specializes in ultra-premium wine at his store Grapes The Wine Company (731 N Broadway, White Plains 914-397-9463). As he explains, several factors are working to the advantage of “serious” wine lovers these days, as can be seen in some of the prevailing steals:

â–  The Wine Pipeline. All wine has to move through a wholesale tier before it gets from a producer or importer to a retail shop or restaurant. The grapes did not stop growing when the economy took a nosedive, so the wine keeps coming; in turn, wholesalers are cutting prices and making bulk deals in order to make room for new vintages. Case in point: half-bottles of Lail “J. Daniel Cuvée” Napa Cabernet, normally $65, which became available in a six-pack for $249. Look for lots of deals from the West Coast in coming months as wholesalers clear warehouse space.

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â–  Falls from Grace. White Burgundy is struggling in part because its de-facto grape—Chardonnay—has lost cachet, but also because it has always been achingly expensive and collectors have started to question its longevity. That helped Posner stock the drinking-great-now Olivier Leflaive’s 2006 Premier Cru Rully for $25. Meanwhile, with Australia suffering from a perception that high-end Shiraz pretty much all tastes alike, $295 Chris Ringland Shiraz was recently going for half-price.

â–  Too Much Good Stuff. After a string of good vintages, says Posner, there are “too many wines, not enough buyers.” From Italy, we are seeing a glut of classics; Pio Cesare 2005 Barolo going for $45 (regularly close to $61) Il Poggione 2004 Brunello for $53 (normally $75) and others for as low as $40. Ditto France, where Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which typically started at around $60, can be had for $30. Posner notes that, thanks to fantastic vintage conditions in 2007, wines from “lesser” regions like nearby Vacqueyras are even less expensive and apt to satisfy lovers of rich, spicy Rhône reds. Once the 2006 and ’07 red Bordeaux vintages—both well reviewed—roll in, Posner expects supply outstripping demand as well.

No doubt collectible wine falls into the category of emotional purchases (after all, there are plenty of good $20 bottles to be had), but wanting “the good stuff” never goes out of style. So far, 2009 is shaping up to be the Year of the Bargain for those still in the hunt. Just as certainly, many collectors with brimming cellars are happily liquidating their assets.

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