Hunting for the Best Wine Deals

Hunting for the Best Wine Deals

As some of you may know, the largest national shipping carriers, UPS and FedEx, are in the process of dramatically altering the guidelines by which they ship alcohol over state lines. While, for the most part, you’ve been able to get wine shipped to you from out-of-state retailers up to this point, this is all changing.

For all intents and purposes, you will be able to order wine and have it shipped to you when you are ordering the wine from a retailer within the state where you are having the wine shipped (if your state allows intrastate shipping). There are a handful of states that will allow wine to be shipped into their state from out-of-state.  From what we’ve learned, these are the states:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Virginia
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

There are also a small number of other states that will allow a retailer to buy a license to ship into their state, and there are certain states that are ‘reciprocal,’ meaning that the two states have an agreement to ship freely between each other.

As these changes unravel and take effect over the next short while, we thought it would be helpful to those of you affected if we created a list of retailers who, on average, have consistently offered the better deals. This group is determined solely by those who offer deals with the highest percentage off of the legit SRP on average. This is not to say that if a retailer is not on this list that they don’t have good deals. There are plenty others who do, but again, on average, the retailers listed below consistently have the highest discounted deals.

For the past 3+ years, Wine Kloud has been tracking daily deals from over 1,000 retailers nationwide, so we have a pretty good handle on who’s offering what and how good the deals are.

Here is the list, by state, of the retailers who, on average, have the best percentage discounts associated with their daily deals, as well as the category they specialize in.  We have no doubt that some may take umbrage with this list, and that is your prerogative. Our selections are based off of data gathered for over three years.

States listed with “N/A,” sorry, but you don’t live in a very daily wine deal friendly state and/or your state does not allow intrastate shipping. Listed in alphabetical order:

 

The Trump Effect on Wine Shipping

The Trump Effect on Wine Shipping

In the days following the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election, many questions remain unanswered as to various policy direction to come from the incoming office of Donald Trump. One question in particular, however, continues to rage in the mind of wine lovers everywhere:  will the Trump presidency have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on the national Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) wine shipping laws in the United States?

While the topic was never broached in debates, we can probably get some idea as to Trump’s leaning on the matter. First off, and probably most important, Trump is pro-business. He likes growth and that’s a good thing in favor of allowing direct wine shipping to consumers. If broadening alcohol shipping laws will contribute positively to the bottom line of the country, then the likelihood is that he would be in favor of that action.

Additionally, Trump owns both a vodka brand as well as a winery based out of Virginia. So right off the bat, we know he’s not opposed to the alcohol industry, even though he does not drink alcohol. This fact raises an interesting point of why he is involved in the alcohol industry if he doesn’t like alcohol. If there’s one thing we know about Trump, he likes money and success, and if he sees potential in an industry, he’s probably going to find a way to invest in it, or moving forward, make money off of it in the form of tax.

Secondly, there is significance to the meme, ‘Drain the Swamp,’ that has been generated and bantered about over the past month or so. It refers to removing of or mitigating the corruption which has plagued Washington for so many years. And the alcohol industry has a lot of swamp. Whether he can have a positive effect or not on Washington’s ‘political influence’ remains to be seen. It would be a monumental task to even make a dent.

If we look at the logic behind anti-shipping laws, we come up with three primary reasons for their existence. The first is the anti-alcohol laws created during prohibition. Unfortunately, many archaic statutes still remain in place as a result of this long-gone era. Remember, shipping is determined at the state level, not the federal level.

Second, DTC shipping laws have improved, but really only in regards to wineries shipping to consumers. As far as retailers shipping to consumers, which is where the far majority of wine is purchased, the shipping laws have remained static. Yay for wineries, boooo for retailers. Part of the issue here is collecting taxes, but the real issue has to do with the next point.

There are forces in the form of lobbyists who work at the state level to preserve anti-shipping laws currently in place. Some have blamed the beer monopolies for igniting lobbyists, others have blamed the goliath alcohol distributors.  You see, no distributor operates in all 50 states or even close to that. They therefore need to protect their sales. If a distributor in Massachusetts doesn’t distribute in California, then he doesn’t want Massachusetts residents to be receiving wine from retailers in CA. MA distributors end up losing the sale! Doesn’t this work both ways? Can’t MA ship to CA? They would be able to if the laws were federalized and we had a  pro-business president, which we may be coming into in January.

Dampening or even outright eliminating the impact of lobbyists is all part of the ‘Drain the Swamp’ movement, but will Trump have an effect this far down the chain, at the state level? Although DTC shipping laws continue to loosen, conventional wisdom and history will tell you no as the issue has always been left to the states to decide. It’s really too bad that it’s the citizens who get hurt by the people they elect into office. Figure that one out…

 

Biodynamic Effects on Tasting Wine: Fact or Fiction?

Biodynamic Effects on Tasting Wine:  Fact or Fiction?

About five years ago I was in Burgundy, France and was introduced to a concept which, while popular amongst winemakers in France, was not as well-known or practiced in the United States at the time. I am referring to biodynamics, and specifically biodynamic calendars for the purposes of tasting wine.

While these calendars have primarily been used by farmers and winegrowers to plant, nurture, and harvest their grapes, most of us are wine drinkers and some state that these calendars can be used just as successfully to taste wine.

Briefly, biodynamic farming practices date back to the early 1900s. The start of the movement is typically credited to a man named Rudolf Steiner. Essentially, and in a nutshell, biodynamics relates to when you implement specific farming practices, such as planting seeds, introducing certain nutrients to the soil, etc.  The dates and times for when these practices should be implemented are based off of the positions of planets, moons, and alike. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should. Biodynamics is based off of astrology.

For those of you not familiar with biodynamics, I may have just lost you or are about to. But don’t stray! I promise you there will be a very fun exercise for you to try over the next couple of weeks and even longer.

Along with the aforementioned Rudolf Steiner, another visionary in the field of biodynamics is Maria Thun. She is held in high regard for developing a calendar which allows farmers to plan out their activities in the field. She highlighted four specific types of days:  Root, Leaf, Flower, and Fruit days.  While this calendar was optimally used by farmers for the purposes of nurturing their  vines, it is also used by wine drinkers as an indicator of what characteristics a wine will exhibit on a given day.

If you’re scratching your head right now, you are not alone. How could a finished product in a corked bottle change the way it tastes, or at least the characteristics it exhibits, over a couple days time? Even though a bottle of wine is essentially a finished product, it does not mean that it doesn’t change, both long-term and short-term. Long term, we know that tannins, for example, smooth out as a wine ages. Wine is a living and breathing thing, believe it or not, and it very much changes its profile, even in the most subtle way, in a very short period of time, too.

After learning about biodynamics in Burgundy back in 2012, I did some more research and decided to test whether or not the biodynamic wine calendar was able to predict which characteristics would be more prominent on a day-to-day basis. I kept the calendar handy on my phone and referenced it every time I tasted wine. It’s important to note that I only referenced the calendar when the bottle was opened moments before I tasted it, removing any speculation that taste profile could be affected by such things as oxidation.

I found more often than not that the calendar held true. Being in the wine business, you get an opportunity to taste the same wine over and over again, so the ‘study’ was somewhat controlled in that sense. Leaf days had distinct notes of brush in the fall. If you live in an area where leaves change colors and fall off of the trees, you know what that smells like.

Root days had distinct notes of dirt or even simple ‘dirtiness’ to the wine. I wouldn’t say that wine was undrinkable on either a leaf or a root day, but it certainly wasn’t as enjoyable as it was on a flower or fruit day.

While many followers of the biodynamic calendar laud the benefits of tasting wine on a fruit day, and consider a fruit day to be the best day to taste wine, others consider flower days to be the best. I found that it comes down to personal preference. If you prefer old world style wines, such as Burgundy, Rhone, Italian, etc., flower days are probably more up your alley as those styles of wine tend to be more nuanced. New World drinkers love fruit days because they are typically in love with hedonistic over-the-top fruit bomb qualities.

Don’t believe me? Have some fun with it and create a simple experiment by following along with a biodynamic calendar when you drink wine. There are a couple of recommended calendars if you’d like to try. You can check out some of the apps available for your phone such as When Wine Tastes Best or Bio Calendar.  While both have their upsides, the former costs money, albeit not a lot, and the second isn’t always up to date.

My preference is a website run by a South African grape grower and Winemaker named Johnathan Grieve. He has a page on his website, BioLOGIC, with an actual calendar, listing out each day and the characteristics, Leaf, Root, Flower, or Fruit, you can expect to find on that day. I always keep a tab open on my phone loaded up to the page with the calendar so I can access it at any point. Check it out and see what you think:  BioLOGIC.

Regardless of whether you believe in astrology or biodynamics or neither, following along with a calendar as you taste wine is a fun experiment. I’d be curious to know if any of you out there do the same or intend to or think that it’s all hogwash. The great thing about wine is that there are no right or wrong answers, just your passion for what’s in the glass.

Sideways II: The Search for Syrah

Sideways II:  The Search for Syrah

America’s interest in wine has soared by leaps and bounds over the past 15 to 20 years. We can thank this insurgence to a couple of things such as the rating houses like Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, media and movies such as Sideways, as well as an overall improvement in the quality of wine being produced.

Even though America’s interest in wine is still very low comparative to our European brethren, it has been making a steady climb. Consumers are starting to understand that wine is not just grapes crushed into a glass, but rather a meticulous process of turning grape juice into a work of art. Continue reading “Sideways II: The Search for Syrah”

The Winds of Change

The Winds of Change

The wine business is fascinating from a business perspective.  It’s an industry unlike any other differentiated by two things:  it is made up of small entities, and it puts a stranglehold on intrastate shipping. Think about it, almost every other popular household good operates in an industry which is either manufactured by or sold by large retail outlets and can be shipped freely anywhere.

Wine is almost exclusively sold by small, low revenue grossing retailers. And even the very few retail outlets who would be considered larger in size for the retail industry, like Costco or Amazon, have either very competitive prices and no internet presence or a very large internet presence but really expensive prices respectively.

Traditionally the wine industry lags behind technology and general business by about five years or so. And while this is probably not something you have given much or any thought to over time, you should if you are a wine drinker.

In order for the wine industry to expand and achieve its true potential, the biggest and most obvious barrier standing in its way is shipping laws. In the United States, every state is responsible for creating its own alcohol shipping laws. Some states, like California, allow wine sales to ship out of and into their state freely. Other states, like Delaware, don’t even allow shipping within their own state.

First off, let’s get it right out in the open that shipping alcohol should be governed at the federal level. The issue here is that states collect taxes and it really isn’t the business of the federal government to be getting involved in intrastate sales in which taxes need to be collected locally.

There’s been much speculation as to why some states allow shipping and others don’t. Some say it’s a tax issue, others say that because it’s alcohol, there is a legal risk associated, and a myriad of other reasons. It has also been said that the largest alcohol distributors in the country lobby at the state level against shipping laws. They don’t want consumers buying wines from other states where they do not sell or represent the product.

Being that the wine industry is made up primarily of small entities, a.k.a. retailers, they have no chance of fighting this battle. And many of the largest retailers nationwide do not sell online or ship nationally.  One of these exceptions is Amazon. They are now on their second go-round of selling and shipping wine online. Their pricing model, however, is not aligned with the rest of their website, although they don’t want you to know that.  They are counting on the fact that they are Amazon and convenience to sell the product.

The wine you see for sale on Amazon is being sold by the wineries themselves for the most part. Therefore, the wineries, not retailers, are setting the price. Wineries tend to have the most expensive prices in the entire industry as they want to protect their pricing integrity. So when a consumer shops for wine on Amazon, the likelihood of them getting a deal like they would on other products on Amazon is small to none. If you’re shopping for a deal on wine, Amazon is not the place to find it.

And then you have the independent retailers who can be larger in size, some of them garnering gross revenues in the multi-eight figures. These are the Target’s, Kohl’s, and Walmart’s of the wine industry, except that they carry everything from entry-level product to prestigious high-end product. While this may sound impressive, they are a blip on the radar compared to most other retail industries.  Not to mention that most of these retailers are single location, so they can only ship to certain states based on where they are located. Yet another distinction between the wine industry and general retail goods.

Because the wine industry has lagged behind other retail industries, it means that consumers lose opportunity. Companies like Wine Searcher and Wine Kloud have done a pretty good job of keeping consumers informed when it comes to pricing and deals.

What does the future hold?  The idea of changing the wine shipping laws has been a long debated topic, and to be fair, some headway has been made. Certain states are loosening regulations slowly, but until there is national recognition and acceptance of the issue, the wine industry potential will continue to be hampered and therefore so will consumers.

 

Hype: Still a Sequel

Hype:  Still a Sequel

News Flash! Whether you realize it or not, marketing has taken over your universe. The majority of your experiences are, for the most part, paid for. This includes what you watch on TV, what music you listen to, what you read, blog posts (!), what you buy, like wine, etc. Even your opinions are formed thanks in large part to the paid environment around you. Continue reading “Hype: Still a Sequel”