The social distancing of the past month has prompted some surprising changes in the way Americans buy wine. Or in the way this American buys wine, anyway.
Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine, beer, or spirit that interests you. Compare prices, find the best bargains, and find vendors convenient to you. And that’s not all. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.
Let me count the ways.
First, within days after everyone started social distancing, sheltering in place, or locking down, depending on where you live, I suddenly realized that our bourbon supply was running low. (Okay, it’s just a couple of bottles, but still.) Did I dare run out and risk contagion at the neighborhood wine shop? No need! A quick visit to Google revealed that liquor stores in my town are allowed to deliver alcohol to your door now, assuming you’re 21 or over and have a credit card. One quick order, and within two hours I had a smiling, no-touch delivery via the Drizly app from Louisville’s Prospect Party Center. I flashed my drivers’ license through the storm door glass. The delivery guy gently set my bottles on the front porch. Nice!
Then, thanks to a contagion-driven gift from the Kentucky State Legislature, as local restaurants, abruptly closed to dining-in, switched their focus to takeout, curbside, and delivery, it is now permissible for eateries with liquor licenses to send along a bottle of wine – or even a cocktail – along with your meal. Not bad! One local Mexican restaurant mini-chain is offering oversize margaritas with your takeout dinner, safely sealed in a plastic cup with a tight lid.
Before long, liquor stores across the region were ramping up Covid-19 safety. Looking for wine for today’s column, I rang up a clerk at nearby Westport Whiskey & Wine, decided on the Indigenous Selections Barbera discussed in my tasting report below, and did a quick curbside pickup from a friendly guy wearing a face mask with a colorful wine-bottle design. Another local favorite, The Wine Rack, has opened an online wine shop with a broad inventory for local delivery.
Desperate times, it is said, call for desperate measures, and in my town at least, the wine and restaurant retail trade is stepping up. Liquor sales in this area are soaring, according to news reports, as people are staying home, restaurants are closing, and dollars that might be spent on wining and dining out are now going to consumption at home.
One local liquor store owner told WHAS-11 that sales were up of 30% over the past three weeks, with volume close to the annual peaks during the holidays and Kentucky Derby season. Nationally, Nielsen data reported a 55% jump in liquor sales for the week ending March 21 compared to the same week last year, with a 21.5% increase continuing into the following week.
Similar changes seem to be occurring nationwide and around much of the world as everyone adjusts to the new, if temporary, normal, as Wine-Searcher.com’s Don Kavanagh reported in the article, Support Your Local Wine Seller.
“We have to resist the urge to give in to panic, misinformation and doubt,” Kavanagh wrote. “And the best way to do that is to carry on as best we can and, most importantly, to continue to buy and drink wine. Now is the time for both buyer and seller to support each other and strengthen the links wine has forged between us all. And, brilliantly, that’s what appears to be happening, with sales reportedly steady, if not booming.”
Restaurant sales, though, toppled with the general halt to dining-in business. “The rapid decline in restaurant sales during the second half of March … was enough to push the industry down to its worst month in decades. Same-store sales for restaurants dropped 28.3% in March,” Nation’s Restaurant News reported yesterday in an article titled Coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on March restaurant sales. “The 28.3% decline does not show the full impact the virus outbreak is having on restaurants. Same-store sales for the industry dropped more than 65% during the last two weeks of the month.”
Wine producers, too, have not been immune to this market whiplash. The pandemic has forced the abrupt closing of restaurants and winery tasting rooms, The New York Times reported. “Restaurants that are open for takeout and delivery and able to sell wine legally are focusing on their existing inventory rather than buying more wine,” Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote today in a column headlined For American Wine Producers, Fear, Uncertainty and Hope.
“The pandemic has caused drastic cuts in business, forced painful decisions and inspired creative solutions,” Asimov wrote. “The entire wine business is affected. Big companies and corporate wineries have far more resources to face difficulties. For small family businesses, it’s potentially an existential crisis. …
“Just around now, give or take a few weeks depending on the climate, weather and grape variety, vine buds are bursting forth with leaves and the first tender shoots. It’s a tenuous time agriculturally as the potential for deadly frosts, which in one cold night can literally nip a harvest in the bud, lingers for weeks. Farmers must be prepared to sometimes work through the night to protect their fragile vines.””
Of course the pandemic is bad news for everyone, and worse news for many. The illness and death rates continue to rise, and closing businesses have thrown millions out of work with no end in sight. This is nothing to joke about, and our thoughts are with all the victims of the pandemic. It’s a difficult, sometimes frightening time for us all. Keep up your distancing. Hold your loved ones close. Care for each other, and to the extent possible, support the businesses you love with your online purchases and no-touch deliveries.
How are you weathering the storm, particularly in terms of food and wine? Let us know, with a post on the WineLovers Discussion Group or the WineLovers Facebook page. I look forward to hearing from you.
Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.
Today’s Tasting Report
Indigenous 2014 Piemonte Barbera ($17.99)
This 100% Barbera is a dark reddish-purple wine, shading to a clear edge. Appealing red fruit aromas lift from the glass, offering mixed-berry notes and a whiff of something like strawberry liqueur. It’s flavor is full of ripe cherry-berry fruit, framed with fresh, mouth-watering acidity and soft but perceptible tannins. Although the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak and spends a year in French oak barrels, there’s nothing manipulated or industrial about its flavor, which is pleasantly rustic and comes across as a versatile table wine that carries its 14% alcohol well. U.S. importer: Indigenous Selections LLC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; selected by Giorgio Rivetti. (April 9, 2020)
FOOD MATCH: You can’t go wrong with rare red meat alongside this fruity, acidic red. It should be fine with darker poultry – duck, goose, or turkey dark meat – and cheese dishes, too, not to mention the stereotypical pairing with tomato-sauced pizza or pasta.
WHEN TO DRINK: This 2014 vintage is drinking beautifully now, and I’m sure it will remain good for a few more years, assuming cool-temperature storage lying on its side. The Diam technical cork provides reassurance against cork taint.
It was a particular value at my local $18 price, but it’s well worth Wine-Searcher.com’s $23 average U.S. retail.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Indigenous Selections Piemonte Barbera on Wine-Searcher.com.
Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read more about Barbera del Monferrato and find listings for dozens more examples of these good red wines.
TALK ABOUT BARBERA:
Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation, The rest of Piemonte, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.
More affordable wines
Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!
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