Every winery faces the problem that at one time or another: a quantity of their wine has not sold. Most often, there is nothing wrong with the wine — it merely hasn’t sold in a defined period of time.
At some point the winery or wholesaler has to decide how to make this excess juice “vanish.” But making wine disappear is more complicated than it may appear! Most wineries can’t simply afford to deeply discount a wine of which it plans to make more vintages of that same wine for two reasons:
– The deeply discounted price casts a negative image on the winery, implying that the wine never was worth the original price for which it was sold.
– The following vintage will be seen as overpriced by comparison.
Numerous tactics are used to make wines go away. One trick used is to sell the excess wine to airlines, where it would be poured by the glass on international flights. Another is to offer visitors to the winery’s tasting room an ultra-deep discount on a wine only at the winery. But one clever winery did the opposite.
This particular winery earned gold medals for its 1981 and 1982 Cabernets. The former sold well until the latter won its gold medal. At that point, sales of the 1981 (a better wine) stopped cold; the ’82 was selling like wildfire. However, instead of discounting the 1981, the winery owner put gold stickers on the bottles that said “Reserve,” increased the price of the wine by $2 a bottle, and it soon sold out.
There’s no doubt that consumers are, for the most part, blatantly unaware of the “tactics” used by wineries to get rid of excess wine. On second-thought, the word “tactics” makes these transactions probably sound a little more devious and underhanded than they actually are. Business really is business, and without viable solutions to offload their excess juice, most wineries would surely go bankrupt.
In actuality, a great deal of companies base their business model on this surplus, wine brands such as Cameron Hughes, for example; who are masters of sourcing excess juice from wineries, and relabeling it under their own name. ABC Liquors have more recently launched a “Block Series” of wines, which instead of bearing the name of a specific winery, instead bears only the name of the “vineyard block” the wine was sourced from. These firms are sworn to secrecy as to the name of the winery, most often signing nondisclosure agreements, with the only clue as to the wines’ origin being the named-appellation on the label.
Certainly, if you’re a savvy wine-shopper, most of these wines can represent excellent value, even if you’re not 100% sure where the wine came from…it’s always fun to guess!