Wine sales: where are discounts to be found?

wine_sale“Rampant price discounting in the wine industry means 2009 will be party time for wine drinkers while winemakers will be left with the hangover.”

Low prices! Party time! Love it! Oh, wait, that quote actually came from New Zealand’s and was referring to a “massive harvests” in Australia and New Zealand.

Here in the US, it may be a different story. Restaurants, many of which have seen a sharp decline in their business, seem to be doing a lot to attract diners, as Frank Bruni detailed on Wednesday in the Times. This includes cutting wine prices, which in many cases, certainly had plenty of room to come down. To the tape: “Wine discounts, waived corkage fees or wine lists showcasing less expensive bottles can be found in Midtown at Alto and the Modern, where bottles under $50 appear in the Bar Room as “wines for our times”; in TriBeCa at Capsouto Frères; and in Greenwich Village at Perry St., owned by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.”

A story in Wednesday’s LA Times suggests that New Zealand’s party time may even have arrived on the West Coast. Patrick Comiskey writes that there’s a “mini-boom for wine lovers” and describes “a buyer’s market for retailers and consumers alike.” But much of what the article describes sounds like smaller retailers stocking more wines at lower price points although some larger stores are using their heft to extract deals from wholesalers “whose warehouses are full of inventory accumulated in better days and who are striking deals to move it out.”

dealornodealHere in New York, it doesn’t seem like “party time” has made it to stores. Sure, there are a few across-the-board sales in January and February, such as Moore Brothers 10% off everything and Crush Wine & Spirits 25% of whites one week and then reds. But these types of sales happen after the holiday binge every year, the same as case discounts at some retailers. Some stores seem to be offering more selective sales either through a store card or special clearance items. And there’s a stream of emails announcing one or two selections–sometimes more–of fine wine that have become available, perhaps from a distributor, perhaps from a collector. But to get the most for your wine dollar, it seems you have to be opportunistic and well informed and discounting is far from “rampant.”

What’s happening near you? Is it deal or no deal? And if you live outside the US, be sure to share your thoughts too.

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19 Responses to “Wine sales: where are discounts to be found?”

  1. You are all over it, Doc. It sounds like the free-market system and the three-tier system are bumpin’ and thumpin’ and wine lovers are totally going to benefit from the shakeout.

  2. Here in Maine there seem to be some fantastic deals, at least in small quantities, of overstocks, closeouts, or change of vintages that the wholesalers want to move.

  3. Greetings from Brazil! We have such obscene import taxes on alcoholic beverages that we “read” more wine than we actually drink it! Anyway, in the past weeks the wine shops down here claim to be selling their stuff with “significant discounts”. How about a RP89/WS88 California Cab retailing for US$ 100,00?? Or a regular, ordinary Barolo for US$150,00?? You don’t know how lucky you are, my friends.

  4. In ATL, we are seeing plenty of closeouts hitting the shelves. Most between 25-50% off. Many are back vintages, and a few are suspect. If you know what you are looking for, you can do well.

    Some restaurants are doing 50% off all wine (bottle and BTG). While I welcome lower resto wine prices, they will never be able to recover once they drop these prices this low.

    Where I’m not seeing the discounts- Champagne and 2007 Ger Riesling ($40 for JJ Prum Kabinett now seems laughable)…

  5. What about that note in the Times on Wednesday that restaurants like Daniel are now offering an Early Bird Special to attract more diners.

  6. As a retailer on the West Coast, I’m not sure where the discounts are. I think some of the Wineries out here in California are still in denial about their prices. I haven’t sold a bottle of Silver oak in two months.

  7. A couple of things to bear in mind:
    1) the last two recessions coincided with times of severe oversupply, in which growth in acreage had outstripped growth in demand for a number of years before the recession. That’s not the case this time. Historically, oversupply has driven discounts more than economic factors in the U.S. wine industry.

    2) Consumer demand for wine is still growing, just not quite as fast as in 2005-2007.

    I suspect there will be price-bombing on the part of individual wineries who were too dependent on restaurant distribution or tourists or wine clubs, but we won’t see wide-spread price decreases.

  8. …I’ve definitely seen a lot of deals at the local Los Angeles wine shops. And I’m talking both ends of the spectrum from the 1994 Mouton-Rothschild marked down to $299 (50% off) to a nice little Loire Valley Muscadet for $9.99 (marked down from eighteen bucks). In this climate, I’ll be looking a lot more at the sale bottles. I still want to drink good wine, but don’t see the need or logic in paying full price for that bottle of Silver Oak.

  9. Great post! I love getting wine at a discount!

    Though, I have to admit that I get my wine at a wholesale discount of 20% – 28%, in general, due to the fact that my cousin is Jeff Welburn of Jeff Welburn Wine Selections, and Angeles Wine Imports – a deal I extend to my readers (and get no kick-backs from, whatsoever – just the pleasure of spreading the wealth).

    So, if any of you like the wines of JWS, tag me, and I’ll hook you up.

    Otherwise, if I want a deal on non-JWS wines, I read the leaflets like everyone else, and see what’s on sale near me.


    ~ Paula

  10. Sorry, forgot to link to JWS.

    ~ Paula

  11. I’m not seeing the large discounts in Colorado, atleast in my local wine shop. I’m definately going to keep my eyes open after reading this story.

  12. What do you think about Warehouse Wines and Spirits on Broadway near Astor Place? I find they have a lot of markdowns, but a lot of their stuff is past its prime (or never good in the first place). Expired cru beaujolais from there has become my staple wine, though.

  13. Here in Vancouver Canada, the Liquor Board had a “sale” / clearance which was bought up the same day, hell people stood in line at 6am. Restaurants are discounting here either. Like Aldo Toledo said from Brazil you don’t know how lucky you are with your wine prices. Here everything is almost double, there is no 5$ bottle of wine and no way in hell there is a 2 buck chuck hah

  14. Ni hao from Beijing,

    We are seeing some good deals here due both to a surplus of wine distributors and the economic crises though prices for imported wines still aren’t great because of the 48% import tax. But beggars can’t be choosers and one company has been doing some good 50% off sales and opens the bottles for a taste before you buy.

    Cheers, Jim

  15. GREAT deals, great selection, great and knowledgeable staff at Court Square Wine & Spirits at 2420 jackson ave, long island city, ny, 11101. Check them out at They also do free wine tastings on thursday and friday nights. Great place, great website.

  16. I guess figuring out discounts depends on your smartness ! If you check out the twitter page of Bottlenotes.. they sometimes give out codes which could be used to get discounts on your online purchase..

  17. Don Giovanni, one of my fav Napa restaurants, introduced a list of deals in January, all for $29 ($29 on Hwy 29). It’s a good mix and some are serious deals. Server said this would continue and list would change.

  18. There is a nice article how you can save on wine. there is a list of good cheap wines

  19. @Dirty…I agree you don’t see too much discounting in the Champagne houses, but take a look at there are some seriously low prices on German Rieslings


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