Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Much Wine Do You Buy? Single vs Batch

How much wine do you buy at a time?  One bottle?  Two?  Or do you buy the way Napa tasting room salespeople sell: "How many cases would you like?"

Surely there are statistics buried someplace deep in the ether on this, but I can't find them.  (Okay, I haven't looked, either.)  What I have heard, though, is that 98% of all wine sold in the US is consumed within 24 hours of purchase.  If that's true, then, using some pretty basic math applied across the simple assumption that most American adults consume fewer than 750ml of wine per 24 hours, we can extrapolate that somewhere in the vicinity of 98% of wine is sold in one bottle increments.

Sure, this amortizes whale buyers across all other buyers, but there's overwhelming evidence here that we, as a collective wine drinking population, want our fix and we want it now.  And we want it in the minimum dose that the marketplace offers the most variety in.

So, how do you buy your wine?  In pellet doses of 750ml apiece?  Me, too.  Well, sometimes, anyway.  But this is changing.  

Perhaps it's maturity or impatience or getting older and more risk-averse; whatever it is, more than ever, wine is coming home in case boxes rather than paper bags these days.  And before you call me a lush (I've been called plenty worse), our household intake of wine is no greater than it has been.

Some possible explanations:
  1. The variability of wines from vintage to vintage are swinging to wider extremes.  Call it global warming or climate change, but consistency appears to be a thing of the past - even in places previously thought unflappable, like Australia.  This makes wine buying more boom-bust than in previous decades.
  2. Consequently, Deals on wines that excite seem to be fewer and further between.  So, when they come about, they're worth jumping in on both feet first.  Earlier this evening six bottles of the Perrin Cotes du Rhone followed me home.  A year ago this was unheard of.  "Variety is the spice of life" was my motto.  Now it's, "I just want something good to drink."
  3. I just don't get the same thrill out of wine buying that I used to.  The culture of wine shops has changed.  Some of those changes are positive, but, broadly speaking, there's a palpable expectation when you walk through the door that you won't be walking out empty handed.  Pressure is up, inventories are down.
  4. Maybe as a result of this, the internet is getting more and more of my business.  And there's only one way to buy on the internet: in case quantities.  According to the annual Wines & Vines/ShipCompliant report on direct shipping, this is growing - especially in the $30+ price range - like crazy.
How about you? Still buying the same way you used to?

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