Hospice du Rhône 2016–Closing Thoughts

| April 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

At the end of a wine festival like Hôspice du Rhone, it’s worth remembering that the festival is more than just a chance to get your wine geek on.  It’s a social affair, including a Rosé lunch, a wine auction, and a closing BBQ dinner.  Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet a large number of winemakers, importers, retailers, and fellow wine lovers from all over.  It’s really quite a community, both virtually on the Internet and in real life.Closing Party #3a 4-16-16

In terms of the Rhône varietal world, it’s still the best of times and somewhat the worst of times.  On the upside, there is a tremendous diversity of wines and wine styles, with a wide range of price points.  Depending on your retail sources, the consumer can find very well-made wines even in the $15-$25 price range.  Moreover, we’re still in the midst of the Rosé Revolution, where the rosé wines aren’t some sweet or insipid version of “real” wines.  As more than one winemaker told me, they put just as much work into their rosé wines as they do the rest of their wines.  Considering that most rosé wines retail for well under $25, it’s still one of the great bargains of the wine world.  If you can’t find happiness with a good, chilled rosé on a warm day on the patio with a nice BBQ, you might be happiness-challenged.

But it’s still a difficult time for the wine world as a whole, which also extends to makers and sellers of Rhône varietals.  Even if you’re lucky enough to make 500-1,000 cases of a very good wine, you still have to figure out how to sell it.  There’s only so much retail shelf space available, and trying to break into new markets can be especially challenging.  At this year’s HdR, several producers from France were showing their wines hoping to find a US distributor, and many of the domestic producers were looking for a distributor or broker as well.


Rose Lunch #2aThat challenge even extends to producers of excellent rosé wines.  Just as an example, I recently visited a neighborhood store with a decent wine department.  At the front of the wine department was a display with about a dozen rosé wines (mostly from Provence or nearby) in the $8-$13 price range.  I asked if they ever carried Tavel wines, and the answer was that they found that when they did carry them, they couldn’t sell them due to the price.  So at least for many consumers, the idea of paying $15-$25 for a bottle of rosé wine is simply a no-go.

 

 

If there’s price resistance in the $15-$25 range, you can imagine how challenging it can be for producers to sell a domestic Syrah that sells for $40-$50 (or pick whatever price points you want).  Simply put, there’s a limit to how much retail shelf space is available for any given wine category and price range.   If you talk to most retailers, and if

Auction #2a 4-16-16

Selling wine is a lot of work.

they’re being candid, then they’ll acknowledge that there’s only so many of those Syrahs that they’re able to carry and sell.  Unless the wine was bestowed with a LOT of points by a well-known wine publication, a $50 Syrah is in danger of gathering dust on retailers’ shelves.

Challenges aside, the tremendous turnout for this year’s HdR at Paso after a four-year hiatus shows the continued consumer interest in this segment of the wine market.  As long as the producers of Rhône varietals can continue to produce high quality wines at prices most wine lovers can afford, there should always be strong demand for these wines.

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