Subscribe

Why wineries will be offering consumers great deals well beyond the coronavirus lockdown

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

Commentary

Dan Berger began writing about wine in 1976, was the full-time wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times for eight years, was syndicated nationally for 40 years. The Santa Rosa resident appeared weekly in the Press Democrat as a syndicated wine columnist from March 1979 until March 2019.

If you’re a Sonoma County wine lover, consider yourself one of the luckiest people in America – and your luck won’t run out for at least another 18 months.

The wine choices consumers now have available are greater than ever, and prices are about as low as they’ve been in decades. And prices are continuing to drop!

Part of the reason for this is the impact that the coronavirus is having throughout the country, exacerbated by several unrelated issues that have combined to change the way all consumers nationally are buying wine. Instead of going to retail wine shops or winery tasting rooms, many wine consumers now are seeking methods for acquiring goods remotely that can be shipped to them. And for California wine, it’s relatively easy to do, especially within the state.

Now that the coronavirus has forced us into lifestyle alterations (such as distancing), those who love wine are in the driver’s seat. Though everyone must adapt to new buying tactics.

Here are a series of seemingly unrelated facts that all add up to good news for anyone seeking wine bargains.

Brick-and-mortar stores began outliving their relevance a decade ago, which was made evident by the increase in Internet sales of all goods, which led to the closure of several large retailers (Sears, Forever 21).

Across the country, shopping malls are beginning to look like ghost towns as consumers find alternate ways to shop. Internet-based companies that offer free returns for unwanted goods have put additional pressure on traditional retail.

Millennial wine buyers’ discovery of alternative beverages in the last three years, including many that are non-alcoholic, have dealt a severe blow to wine sales in the last two years. Sales of all U.S. wine took an actual decline in 2019, the first time that has happened in four decades.

This and several huge crops led to an oversupply of wine in the marketplace, so much so that an estimated 15% of the 2019 California winegrape harvest was left on the vine, unpicked. (Growers said grape prices had fallen below picking costs!)

With fewer buyers and fewer stores, the number of top-flight wines in the wholesale market is growing and prices are soft. In a typical year, retailers are offered end-of-vintage discounts. “Now we’re seeing those same deals when the wines are being released,” I was told by Barry Herbst, wine buyer for Santa Rosa’s Bottle Barn, the largest wine retailer between San Francisco and Portland.

Wineries that have closed their tasting rooms because of coronavirus rules are earning nothing from those traditional profit centers. As a result, many wineries now offer special deals. Just days ago, Kendall-Jackson announced that it was offering free shipping and a 20% discount on orders of $75 or more.

Locally, Bottle Barn has become one of the nation’s most successful wine stores partly as a result of its strategy of working on extremely small margins. It also recently instituted a new tactic in which it has created special pricing for certain wines that it has exclusively, and thus it can offer free shipping on many items. Herbst says this new aspect of the business has been brisk.

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales from California wineries has increased dramatically in the last year. A 2018 report on the industry estimated that 10% of all winery sales in 2017 were DTC through in-house wine clubs. Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report on the California wine industry three months ago indicated that within two years that number would be above 50% within two years.

DTC wine sales benefit California residents more than residents of other states since shipping within California from a winery based here often is cheaper than if that same winery shipped across state lines.

The average cost of shipping across the country is $35 to $45 per case. The average cost of shipping from a California winery to a California address is $25, and many wineries offer free shipping on 12 bottles or more.

Numerous retailers’ websites now display suggested retail prices in literally dozens of locations nationally, so consumers can easily determine the cheapest way to get any wine. Just ask a retailer’s site to display the shipping cost. In several cases, I found that shipping a case was free.

Even after the coronavirus crisis has abated, many of the benefits that wine consumers have recently seen will remain.

Commentary

Dan Berger began writing about wine in 1976, was the full-time wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times for eight years, was syndicated nationally for 40 years. The Santa Rosa resident appeared weekly in the Press Democrat as a syndicated wine columnist from March 1979 until March 2019.

Show Comment

Our Network

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine