Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shelf Deception

With everything in play the way it has been for the last 50 or so years, is anyone surprised that we now find ourselves in prime-time navel gazing mode regarding our future? In the early 1970’s we were not so gently warned to get our oil-addiction in check. And now, everyone is acting surprised that gas is $4 a gallon, like it’s the end of the world? Hello, that was the price of gas in Italy, in 1984.

Now we are starting to reluctantly see the introduction of the new pony cars, like the new Dodge Challenger or the new Chevy Camaro, which were designed way back when the price of oil was $40 a barrel and now it is $140. No wonder there isn’t too much excitement about those cars, except in places like the Chinese Billionaire Club or the Dubai Gazillionaire’s Guild.

Is it any surprise that now, not many fellows want to shell out the bucks for a pony car that will cost them $50 a day to run? The world that these cars were designed for no longer exists.

Likewise, in the Italian wine world, we also have these pony car wines that were dreamt up for a world that isn’t there waiting for them. The shelves are not begging for it, I have this on good counsel from the streets.

I know some of my importer friends and colleagues don’t like to hear it, but the world has presently turned away from something thought up to be uber and special, a luxury item created for an emerging market that can barely keep its head above water.

"It's not easy being green"

What is the typical wine of which I talk about? It is often from Tuscany but not limited to that area. The Maremma figures in here, seeing as there was a lot of investment and planting some years ago, in anticipation of the growth of the phantom category. It can be a blend of Sangiovese with Bordeaux varietals. Syrah can also be a component. It can also be found in the Veneto, in Piedmont, in Sicily, Sardegna, the Marche, almost anywhere. But Tuscany seems to be the poster child for these mis-planned opportunities that never materialized.

And I’m not meaning to throw down hate on my Tuscan brethren, but folks, I really don’t see how it will fly in these times. If anyone can find the rubes, please send some of them to me.

OK, so we get an email, or a meeting whereby we get this plea, more often in the form of a requisite for continued good relations. Time out.

Let’s say I am a salesman coming to your place, to sell you, let’s see, brushes. And I knock on your door, because you have been a good customer, have bought a lot of brushes from me in the past. Even tooth brushes and brushes to clean out the spokes in your car wheels. So you are a loyal client and you pay me always on time. Good times.

And I come to you and tell you I have built this brush factory and have invested heavily. And those brushes I have been selling to you for $5-6, I still want to sell them to you. But I need you to also buy a bunch of brushes for your house and they cost $12-15 and they only are good for the second floor. You can’t use them in the garage and they are useless in the dining room. They are only for the study on the 2nd floor or the guest bedroom. And not the bathrooms. And I need you to buy a dozen of them.

And you look at me and tell me you don’t need them, let alone a dozen of them. And I respectfully answer back that I hear you but I still need you to step up to the plate and honor the commitment that our relationship requires.

Can you feel the force of the door as it just got slammed in my face?

Now, I’m not saying that it would go that far. But just like Detroit has invested in something that is really not appropriate for the current market, so in other endeavors, there are products developed that just aren’t the greatest ideas for the world we find ourselves in.

What the world needs now - is it really another highfaluting Maremma wannabe that sells for $60, $80, $100?
I don’t see it, anymore than I see myself getting behind the wheel of a 9mpg Viagra-mobile.

What does excite me is to press on with the refinement of those wines that appear to be Italian concept wines, but closer to entry level prices. Look at the Asian car market, or better, look at the European car market. Within 2 years VW is going to have a car for sale that will get 235 mpg. How about an Italian wine that doesn’t suck all the spare change out of the glove compartment, something we can drive around our dining rooms and still be able to put pasta and salad on the table as well?

Something for the wine-concept gurus to think about, when they’re staring at themselves in the mirror, while they put on their sunscreen, before they head out to the seaside, during the month of August.


BK said...

Hmmmmm... I ponder, now, if that makes Maremma a sheepdog of a wine...

Tracie B. said...

so what's with those charger things? i come home and i see them everywhere


Ace said...

company cars, prolly, plus rental companies use 'em a lot too, bugadahbugadah, capeesh?

David McDuff said...

Thank goodness for my Bardolino and Dolcetto d'Alba normale. Now if only I could bring my '76 Datsun B210 back from the grave. I do miss that 40mpg clunker.

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