Magazine article Sunset

Secret Deals

Magazine article Sunset

Secret Deals

Article excerpt

How to get A-list wines for bargain prices

ARE YOU MORE confused than ever by the tsunami of new labels you see when wandering down wine aisles these days? Our advice: Don't throw in the towel and reach for a familiar bottle; take a chance on one of the new ones, because more than a few taste a lot better than they should for the price. Think Two-Buck Chuck, only far superior.

That's because many of the winemakers behind these labels skipped the step - and expense - of growing the grapes themselves and cut a great deal with the folks who did. It's an old French practice: A vintner buys grapes or wine from someone else; makes or just finishes the wine; and bottles it under his or her own label. Négociants - merchants - the French call them. And the growing number of custom crush facilities (co-op spaces with all the necessary equipment) in the West attests to how many vintners are making wine without avine or crush pad of their own.

The recession turned négociant winemaking into a value proposition. As wine drinkers traded down a few price points, high-end wine languished on the shelf, and a lot of wineries became willing to move their excess inventory (grapes or wine) at fire-sale prices. Enter savvy négociants.

The catch: We can't know whose vineyard or barrel room these wines first called home; négociants are generally barred by contract from revealing. …

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