A Healthy Wine Market
By: George Balling
The wine market here in North Idaho has changed much in the 15 plus years we have had The Dinner Party. It was a healthy well integrated market when we arrived, it is even more robust now. Fifteen years ago, there was good representation across varietals and appellations, the assortment of what we have to choose from now is even fuller. The re-emergence of the better wines from Australia and more coming out of other “New World” regions like South America and South Africa have all contributed to our choices.
Similarly, we have seen additional choices from the “Old World” countries as well. More and better wine is arriving from Greece than when we arrived and the East Block countries are exporting more as their wine industries start up and expand again after the fall of communism. While Spain and Portugal have long been represented here in Coeur d’Alene we are now seeing wines from virtually every appellation in both countries.
Perhaps the biggest change and expansion of the market though is in the harder to find, more allocated and therefore more expensive categories. While most of us would never consider paying over $400 for one of the best white wines from France, or well over $1,000 for some of the most sought after reds from Europe and the Napa Valley these hard to find bottlings do represent an important segment of a healthy and robust wine market.
We know for certain that all wine consumers have their preferred price point they like to drink at. Even the most well-off wine consumers have certain prices that are simply too much to spend. For others though having access to wines at those prices, the ones most of us won’t discuss, are part of the selection they want to see, some even regularly so. This is why a healthy wine market needs wines from the modest $15ish level up to the prices most of us would never entertain and all the ground in between.
This is indeed the area of the market that has filled in nicely over the last 15 years. The best of the best from the Northwest have always been a bit easier to come by just due to geography. While many of the wines are allocated, we now see on a regular basis the hardest to come by names from the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Names like Harlan, Bond, Pride Mountain Vineyards, Grieve Family Winery, Rochiolli, Failla, Shafer to name just a few are all available in most years. There are still some that remain out of our reach, but we suspect as demand continues to grow we will continue to see growth in the list of wineries available here.
When we arrived to open the shop the classic French Premier and Grand Cru names and the best of the best from Italy were in the “dare to dream” category of what we might carry. Today though we see names that were just that, a dream. Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC), Jean Louis Chave, Chateau Lynch Bages, Tollot Beaut and other “big dogs” from France are now more common. Similarly, Gaja, Cassanova di Neri, Sassicaia and other stellar Italians are now offered to us on a regular basis.
We recognize that buyers of these rare wines are rare too, but having them to offer completes the market. We also know it is important to note that having ample choices up and down the price scale is necessary, the average bottle sold in the US is still under $20 so the selection of great wine at more gentle prices is vital to an adequate market. We can now say we have that here in North Idaho as we can offer a selection as robust as most anywhere in the country. There will always be names we can’t get, but the important thing to note is that we can now easily cover all the bases in varietals, regions, and price points. While it is fun for all of you to have access to just about anything it is fun and rewarding for us to work in a full and expanding market.