Wines of the (economic) times

Everyone in the world, particularly those of us in the US, are feeling the pinch of the challenging economic environment.  Government stimulus packages, collapsing banks, record numbers of newly unemployed – those luxuries we may have been splurging on a year or two ago are possibly absent from our regular shopping lists these days.  Where does wine fit in?  Can you still justify opening up a $20 (or more expensive) bottle of wine with dinner?  That is a lot to spend on an unessential (some might beg to differ) dinner item on just any day of the week.

wine glass money

There has been a lot written recently about food and wine in challenging times.

Eric Asimov wrote an article for the NY Times “Modest Luxuries For Lean Times”.  I was not familiar with most of the wines he wrote about, but I do agree that one can find some great buys between $10-$20 (while spending less than $10 is generally a gamble in terms of the quality).

There was an article over the weekend discussing New Yorkers inclination to turn to comfort foods.  Apparently New Yorkers are frequenting the fancy obscure restaurants less and opting for more affordable and familiar cuisine – such as a burger and mashed potatoes.  A burger shop manager was quoted, saying “people are looking for nostalgic, homemade food at a reasonable price”.

But I digress.  We are talking about wine.

Mike Steinberger, writing for Slate Mag “Drinking Away Your Sorrows –  How Has the Financial Crisis Affected The Wine World?”, discusses the issue at length.  Steinberger mentions recent auction success and stable wine prices as evidence that wine has not been affected.  He then cites a UNC-Greensboro economist who claims that “when the economy weakens, alcohol sales fall”.  And while he proceeds to repeat a theory I have heard before, that people drink less OUT, but still purchase alcohol to take home to drink, he then states that wine is not affected nearly as much as beer and spirits, citing evidence from Neilson garnered via bars, clubs & restaurants.  Finally, he quotes a retailer who says that “Instead of buying a $40 bottle, maybe they’ll go for a $25 bottle now, but they want wine on the table.”

As I hustle throughout the streets of NY I have seen this all first hand.  Wine Bars aren’t as busy.  Commercial spaces are staying vacant (a lot) longer.  Restaurants are closing at a faster pace and opening at a slower pace.  And retailers, looking to provide their customers with what they are seeking, seem to be looking for more wines that retail in the $20 & less category.

These are all things I will keep in mind as I move forward with my Israeli wine project plans.  And while I definitely have good reason to be cautious, spending as much time as I do at wine bars, wine tastings and wine retailers has given me a good feel for the market.  It is an ever changing market that I must stay on top of, but I believe in the journey and while that light (at the end of the tunnel) is hard to see, I know it is there…

Happy conscientious Wine Tasting!


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