Magazine article Sunset

The Wine Guide: Why Can't I Find That Wine?

Magazine article Sunset

The Wine Guide: Why Can't I Find That Wine?

Article excerpt

* We've all been there--standing in a shop holding a piece of paper on which we've scrawled the name of a wine we've read is fantastic. But no one in the shop has ever heard of the wine, or worse, the salesperson scoffs when we ask for it--no mere mortal would ever be able to put his or her hands on that wine.

What's going on here? Why does it often seem that the higher the praise (or the score) a wine receives, the less likely it is we'll ever find it? And are there any insider techniques for getting ahold of wines that everyone says are impossible to find?

First, the harsh reality: Unlike cars, stereos, or even most foods, wine is a finite entity, the production of which cannot be increased at will. Let's say that one night at a restaurant you sprung for a bottle of Shafer's special Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon and loved it. The next day you tried to find it, but no luck. Here's why: Shafer Vineyards is one of about 280 wineries in the relatively small Napa Valley, located in an even smaller section known as the Stags Leap District, just 3 miles long and barely 1 mile wide. And the wine called Hillside Select comes from only certain sites on the estate. The upshot of it is, every year Shafer can make only 1,800 to 2,200 cases of Hillside Select for the entire world. (And while that isn't very much, many desirable wines are made in even smaller quantities.)

And who gets that wine? First of all, top restaurants. A winery always prefers to sell its wine to restaurants because of the exposure it will get. Thousands of people will see the wine on the list, and over time, hundreds of people will try it. Even a single bottle might be shared by, say, four diners. By contrast, in a retail shop, one individual can snap up every case the shop has.

Of course, most fine wines are made in enough quantity that some will be available through wine shops. But, even then, you may not see it because wine shops often hold aside rare and hard-to-find wines for frequent, loyal customers. For an outsider, it can be practically impossible to break into this loop.

What to do

1. While there are great wines that are hard to find, there are also great wines that aren't. Don't be too obsessed with your search.

2. Read carefully. If a wine magazine carries a glowing review, but then notes that only 200 cases of the wine were made, your chances of securing it are slim. …

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