Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mean Streets

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)


pondlife said...

This is a really well put together blog.

I like the idea of an American shuttling back and forth between Italy a country I love and California, a state I've heard about, dealing in delicious wines...

An Italienne-American friend once brought me a bottle of Silver Oak when she came a-visitin'.

Simply wonderful and the wine wasn't bad either...

It's now lunchtime and I feel a glass of 2000 Montagny 1er Cru coming on...

Tracie P. said...

you are right about italian wine. it's been a tough sell lately if it's not a cheap PG. I was thinking of things from more of a whole-division perspective, you know what i mean, ace. no one's willing to go out on a limb for a verduzzo or an Etna, that's for sure.

unless it's a barolo that tastes like blackberry jam. But please, don't get me stah-ded again.

but seriously, i look HOT in that red bikini.

may need to wax, though...

ahmad wiyono said...

you are right man... i hope that my country to...:D

Unknown said...

One o' these days yer gonna have to tell us what's up with you and that Zardoz photo, AC.

Twice now, right?

Marco said...

whither or wither?
bk is always there with that acute insight. bk is good. it might be good for bk to do a q & a with you for your blog. zardoz for ever! his name sounds like a sleeping aide.

Anonymous said...

Zardoz is a modern day warning and an Avatar.

The IWD likes Zardoz-he is her protector

Back off, guys.

Unknown said...

Wow. Great photo. Really sets the tone well. Keep up the good work!


dan red said...

So many wines, so little dollars. It appears that the days of consumers "trading up" to more expensive wines may be over for a while.

However, through thick and thin, the good news is that consumers are still consuming! We just have to find ways of being more creative in our efforts.

A wise friend once told me, "it's a marathon, not a sprint". Well, our marathon seems to have hit a little bump in the road. We just have to find the right detour to get back on track.

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