In a counterpoint to my last blog post about the "Dinosaurs of Retail", I'd like to call attention to a new species of retailer: The one that succeeds because they don't know any better.
The old guard and conventional wisdom of the wine world have a way of suppressing even the most rampant wide eyed enthusiasm. As times have changed, the merchants that prospered during the 80's and 90's became cynical as their market changed. Once in a while, you come across a retailer that hasn't been jaded, one that doesn't realize that times have changed. The state of the business today is the only reality many of them have ever know. This gives them a huge leg up on the competition. They haven't fallen victim to conventional wisdom yet, and as a result, they are discovering the new boundaries of where our market is.
Consumers haven't stopped buying wines that cost hundreds of dollars, though, that market surely has diminished. The new guard, just discovering some of the world's best wines, are coming up with creative ways to turn consumers on to them. I am now seeing break-even tastings featuring wines worth hundreds of dollars. More people will pay $25 for a 2 oz pour of Chave or a "la la" than you would expect. The rare chance to try one of these wines may be enough to turn someone into a collector. The amazing correlation to all of this of course is the decreased reliance on the Ratings Rags.
Veterans of the industry are quick to dismiss what this new breed is doing. I just can't see why they would want to squelch this approach. It seems like telling a tightrope walker to "look down". My message to them, don't trust the old guard, you're doing great.