A Case for the Case
With the increasing popularity of wine over the last twenty years or so we’ve seen prices rising and rising and rising. Wineries have responded to buying anxiety by reducing the case size of wine from twelve to six to even three and four in some cases. The question is as a wine buyer does this reduce my anxiety? Well, yes for that brief millisecond when I see the ‘case’ price…but I’m immediately brought back to reality when I see in big bold letters ‘4 PK.’
In the newest issue of Wine Spectator, James Laube (one of the oldest contributors and my favorite) discusses the Ever Shrinking Case Size of wine. He explores that this shrinking case size is influencing consumer behavior and increasing reluctance t0 a case of wine. With the number of options in the wine world, it is hard to commit yourself to buy twelve bottles of the same wine. What if you don’t like it? Better question what if your wife/husband doesn’t like it? Al and I used to struggle with these questions before the opening of Decanted and still have an occasional dispute when we bring home our weekly case (yes, I said weekly) and he has it loaded up wine I’m not thrilled about.
But I’m under the belief that you really need to have four bottles of a particular wine in order to truly appreciate it and understand it. Does that mean you need four bottles of every wine you come across…no. I’m speaking specifically towards building a collection or appreciating a premium wine. One of the things I love about wine is its adaptability. Not only does it change over time, but it changes in regards to its place, company, and food pairings. There are so many factors that go into whether a wine is ‘good’ or not beyond just the grapes and winemaking process. I’ve had my recent favorite bottle of wine…Moschioni Rosso Celtico…twice now. I loved it once, but also loved the people I was drinking it with. The second time it didn’t taste as great…but the people weren’t exactly tons of fun either.
So here’s my case for the case…a top three of reasons why I still believe in buying by the dozen.
1. Um case discount? I may be frugal but I’m always looking for a discount. Best part about this is it allows me to buy wines that might have been out of my price range. For example, if my budget is $20 a bottle on average, a 10% discount allows me to increase that to $22…doesn’t sound like a lot, but it could be the difference between a good wine and a great wine.
2. How long will this bottle age? I get this question all the time, and to be honest I’m not sure. Neither is Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, or even the winery. Unfortunately there is no science to discovering the perfect maturity of a wine. It’s influenced by a number of different factors including transportation and storing conditions, bottling procedures, temperature and a whole lot of other stuff I don’t understand. So here’s our answer to that question and our case for at least four bottles of any wine you plan on cellaring. Open one bottle up five years after release…see how it is. Still tight? Age it for another five. Open it up and its perfect…great drink the other two bottles, if not cellar again and keep testing.
*Special Note* Do read up on the expected maturity of the wine first, certain wines age longer than others and you may need to adjust the above timeline. The winery the best resource, but if you can’t get an answer there – we like www.erobertparker.com.
3. Going Green. Is buying a case of wine vs. one bottle better for the environment? It might not seem to make a difference, but when you add up all the factors that go into that case…like driving to and from the wine store twelve times vs. one….I seem to think this might be an earth friendly approach for us winos. Would I like to see my customers smiling faces twelve times a month? Of course, but consolidating your trip not only saves gas and unfriendly emissions but helps me save on bags, paper, energy and lets me consolidate my orders passing those earth saving activities on to my suppliers.
So is this the demise of the case as James Laube predicts? I think not, I believe in the case and know it will rebound. If you are interested in Laube’s article, please click here or read it in the April issue of Wine Spectator (page 35).