The last two months, for Italian wines in the US, have been less than stellar. In fact, 2008, in the world I am looking at, looks like we have, once again, hit the wall.
Spending is down, in dollars, but more so in cases. That means that we are spending less but buying even fewer cases. The Dollar = Euro makes it seem like more dollars are being spent. But less cases are going out. Period.
It’s also that way with spirits and other wines. And we are going into summer. Long. Hot. Summer.
So while we wax poetically about Greco and Garganega, this isn’t looking to be a blockbuster summer for Italian wines. People are emptying their gas tanks and their liquor cabinets.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Americans (and our government) have been living high on credit without saving for a rainy day. It is now officially moist. So time to reduce inventories and start to rebuild.
Suppliers are screaming for more space in the big warehouses, but people are not expanding, they are not making big changes in the up-tick department. They are trading down. One retailer told me today, when I asked him about Brunello, that he wasn’t seeing expensive Italian wine as a value in today’s world. I mentioned to him that we had a 2002 Brunello that he could sell for about $35.00 and he got excited. And ordered a case. A six-bottle case. We are going to prop up the Holy Roman Empire, 6 bottles at a time. And we cannot expect New York to hold up all of the sky. There aren't enough cranes.
The Italian Wine Daughter wrote me, today, twice:
1) "I think sales will be down, overall, but people are still buying. There may be a revolt once fuel prices start to affect deliveries (possible higher minimums, etc), but this is going to happen in the biz in general, as in every other sector of our lives. Chains are strong, independent restaurants are going both ways. Hopefully we can look at this positively: even with this ecomony, people are still drinking wine, maybe not jumping on the Bordeaux pre-sales, but there is a steady trend that wine consumption is on the rise and will continue. Slow growth is growth, nonetheless! "
And then her Neopolitan roots sprang forth:
2) "manc'un cazz' "
Now we're tawkin'.
An Italian restaurateur called up recently. His family was coming from Italy and he wanted some wine for the house. “Send over 5-6 cases of Chardonnay, Sonoma perhaps, and 4-5 cases of red, Maybe a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet, not too expensive, maybe from Napa or some other good California value.”
So, Italians visiting the US to spend their Euros, want to drink local (or at least, California), not Soave or Pallagrello. No help from the tourists.
The sommelier from the Ritz told me about a Strawberry wine from New York, Baldwin Vineyards. We were judging wines and had just tasted a red dessert wine that had a definite chocolate character. Without a doubt. Strange, but in a weirdly wonderful way. “I know I’ll burn in hell for liking this wine,” I thought aloud. And why would that be? Even things I taste surprise me, with the reactions I sometimes have.
It was 98°F today. The streets are melting. Break out the Geox, we’re gonna need them the next 4 months or so.
Lucy, we got some ‘splaining to do.
(And some selling, too)