Every industry has its own jargon. In the wine biz, for instance, Rombauer chardonnay is known as "Cougar Kool-Aid."
An odder one is OND, an acronym of the first letters of the year's final three months, when a huge percentage of wine sales are made. At every stop in the three-tier system -- winery to wholesaler to retailer -- OND can be make-or-break time. This year it coincides with continuing struggles for many wineries, and adjustments in prices and packaging. Bad news for them, good news for us.
Interviews with three local store buyers uncovered a few areas in which consumers can find great value in the coming months (FYI, I'm also a fan of all brands mentioned).
Sparklers: Champagnes have seen serious price correction ... er, reductions. The Cellars' Ray Zemke called the prices of incoming Heidsieck bubblies "stunning" and noted bargain tariffs for Gloria Ferrer from California and Perelada Cava from Spain. Lakeside Wine & Spirits' Pat Keeler marveled at the deals he's getting on "J" sparklers from California. Looks like it'll be a great season all around for bubbly, and a chance for the uninitiated to learn how fab these wines are at the dinner table.
Second labels: While most Napa brands "seem to be holding their pricing," said Century Wine & Spirits' Michael Grabner, "I'm seeing some juice from the higher end slipping to the second label." In recent months, Duckhorn's Decoy portfolio went from a lone red blend to several varietals, super values in the $18 to $25 range. "I asked one of their folks, 'Is this declassified?' and got kind of a nod and a wink," Grabner said. He also lauded Quintessa's Faust cabernet sauvignon ($44), saying it got "the same kind of love that goes into their $125 first label."
Secondary Bordeaux: Zemke sees "really, really great values" with unclassified 2008 reds from Bordeaux. "With the '09 Bordeaux vintage being so heralded, the '08s are going to get lost and I'm already seeing some awesome values from Cotes du Castillon for like $10."
Spain: Nothing new here, more a continuation. "Spain continues to show great, great wines at all different price points," Grabner said. He lauded Evodia, Luzon and de Fuego for under $10 and the $20 Triton ("a beautiful full-bodied red tasting way over its price point"). Keeler and Zemke also cited Spain, "especially the Eric Solomon stuff," the latter added. Seeing the name of importer Solomon or his former cohort Steve Miles on a bottle's back label is a harbinger of tasty juice inside.
There's more out there. With slow sales in recent years causing backlogs for many brands, just ask your local wine-monger "What have you just gotten a really good deal on?" But there's a flip side, Keller pointed out.
"Tell people to watch their white vintages because some of this stuff is not fresh," he said. "An '06 chardonnay under $20, you don't want to drink that."
Bill Ward • firstname.lastname@example.org