Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Caviar Indicator

Finding decent caviar this past New Year's was quite a trick. Years ago, in the last century, I ruined my palate for caviar by eating several large helpings of Beluga in Turkey and elsewhere at very resonable prices. Let's see, I think it was $7 for two ounces, or was it four, plus a water glass full of ice cold Vodka. I never should have acquired the habit as it has become progressively more costly to the point of being totally beyond reach. As my deceased friend Bill B. used to say, well, at least I had my share.

Still, this doesn't stop me from searching every year. In the current century, the sweet spot for me has been American Sturgeon and Paddlefish caviar, farmed or wild. Of course, I never object to Ikura, or red salmon caviar. This year turned up very little in this middle range. The Romanoff on the supermarket shelf hardly qualifies as caviar. The other available option - Osetra for $100 an ounce and up is equally unworkable! Luckily I coped a jar of wild American Paddlefish for $20 an ounce at trader Joe's early, just before it disappeared for the season.

What's this got to do with wine? First, it appears that people are buying caviar, but not the ultra expensive varieties. So it's like they don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but are willing to spend for good value.
No two buck chuck, but no Opus one either. To put it another way, no Cold Duck, but no Crystal either.
So it appears that under $20 or $30 at the most is the new normal. Sure I saw lots of folks walking off with cases of $45 Mauritson Zin at the barrel tasting in December, but how many wineries can sell at $30 or $45 price points? How many have the magic of Mauritson?

I recently read an interview with the CEO of the company that produces Ugg boots. He figured he was right in the sweet spot between Family Dollar and Tiffany. Similarly Coach offers value luxury that appeals to the new consumer. It seems there are too many wineries trying to sell $45 bottles of wine. I'm sure most of them are conviced that their wine is worth it and in most cases the wines are probably quite good, but why should I fork over $45 for your Merlot, when it is so similar to Joe's and Tom's and Dick's and Harry's.

My advice for the New Year to my winemaking friends? You need an under $20 bottle, good value and some character in your wine that distinguishes it from the rest of the shelf. Happy New Year everyone.Look for the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wines coming soon.

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