Monday, January 23, 2012

Time to Think about Pink

This is the time of year when importers, distributors and ultimately retailers forecast and commit to their Rosé purchases for the warm months of 2012. We have seen a steady increase in the sales of rosé for as long as I can remember, and we are now at a point where every fine wine shop and restaurant in the country is doing something with this category. The mantra is: Rosé is brought in right after the wine is finished and sold out before it hits 1 year old. Rosé is seemingly held in the same regard as Beaujolais Nouveau, if you don't drink it, it will be dead wine in 2 years. This is absolutely absurd. Rosé lives longer than many similarly priced white wines, and unlike it's white counterparts, actually could use a bit of time to develop. I'm not talking about cellaring these wines, but I certainly would think that a 2 year old Rosé isn't the kiss of death we have come to believe in this industry.
I not sure how we got this way. The demand for early arrival dry pink is so great that many producers have prioritized it's bottling and release before that of many white wines. Who decided that was a good idea? And who decreed that 2 year old rosé is the kiss of death? My theory is it is the mentality of the people taking the risks of buying and selling the wines. If they place some sort of hard and fast parameters and metrics on these items, they are held less accountable for taking risks. Unfortunately, they are setting themselves up for some degree of disaster. Purchasing agents groan when confronted with having to buy in on rosé, and many feel like they get burned every year because it isn't all sold out by August 1. Then they need to discount it, sometimes at a great loss, and then the cycle starts all over again, because the market does demand rosé. Admittedly, rosé has become closely associated with Summertime, and rightfully so. We all know that rosé does quite well year round though especially at Thanksgiving and Easter. It's a breakable cycle if we as a wine community can teach and learn just two thing about rosé: it improves in year 2, and we can and should drink it year round.
Not too many generalizations work in wine. I am pretty confident about this one. I would estimate that 95% of dry rosés out there will peak in the 18 month- 24 month window, 6 months after many have been closed out. I'm not suggesting buying these and sitting on them for 2 years as that's pretty bad business. What to do, and now is a great time to do it as rosé continues to gain popularity, is to educate the wine community, starting with consumers, sommeliers and retailers as to the durability and year round drink-ability of rosé.
Perhaps if we band together, we can help out those poor purchasing agents staring at their rosé offerings with dread right now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who's the Boss?

The customer is always right. Duh. That's like rule number one of business. For some reason, the beverage business blurs this line a little bit (or a lot). Theoretically, each lower tier of the distribution model becomes a customer for the tier directly above it. The distributor is the customer for the supplier, the retailer is the customer for the distributor. These are both true, but the lines can go both ways. The distributor, since they are the single outlet for the supplier, often receives pressure from the supplier. The supplier always has an option to find another customer. That just sounds weird. The supplier can fire their customer and find one that will buy more of their product. Does this happen anywhere else? The dynamics of this possibility make this relationship strange. In many instances, the distributor and the supplier are on the same page and partnered up. If not, the supplier needs to gingerly apply pressure on the distributor to buy and sell more product. When push comes to shove, who wins out? Well, no one. It's sort of a dance to see if each others abilities, pocketbook and priorities are even in the same ballpark. If not, lawyers step in, then everyone loses in the short term.

Ordinarily I'd try to insert some nugget of wisdom or perspective into the proceedings, but today, I have none. It's a strange dance, built around strange laws and everyone I know has battle scars to show for it. I'm lucky to be with like-minded distributors who are largely on the same page. I have no illusions that it will stay this way, but today it is, so all is good.