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D.C. Wine Expo


Joe H
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I have been to every one of the Wine Expos over the years. From the original in the Reagan Building, over to the "new" convention center and back to the Reagan Building. For me, this was the most disappointing. I am curious about others' thoughts: am I alone in thinking this.

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I have been to every one of the Wine Expos over the years. From the original in the Reagan Building, over to the "new" convention center and back to the Reagan Building. For me, this was the most disappointing. I am curious about others' thoughts: am I alone in thinking this.

I am unable to make the yearly comparison/generalization, because I skipped the past several years, being rather crowd averse. But I wonder what you expect from this show - it is clearly not aimed at someone who is a collector with an old-world palate who scours the Internet for the best deals on barolos and bordeaux from obscure New Jersey retailers. (I write this with a hint of sarcasm, but mostly respect for your knowledge of and passion for wine, which is evident from your posts.)

This festival has several audiences:

1) Wineries and importers who are NOT yet represented in this market, but who participate hoping to attract the attention of a distributor (or wine writer) who will represent (or champion) them, such as Frontaura from Toro in Spain, really nice Tempranillo wines - these participants are there primarily for the two hours of trade tasting just before the public is admitted;

2) Importers and distributors who are new to this market and hope to get some consumer (and trade and wine writer) attention - such as the New York or Virginia wineries, or a new Italian importer from NoVa called Il Pioppo Selections, with a few really nice Proseccos, a tart, lemon/lime Soave and a couple racy Sicilians - who are hoping to gain a little traction in this market by pouring their wines for interested consumers and retailers;

3) The general public - but not necessarily people who are really into wine; rather, those who are interested or newly interested and eager to expand their horizons by trying new things, maybe finding an unoaked chardonnay like Four Vines from CA, or a really nice sparkling wine (Kluge) from Virginia, go figure. These folks are the bread and butter market for a festival like this - and that's why wineries, importers and distributors come with mid-range wines, but usually better-than-average mid-range wines, trying to stand out among the crowd. They might even find some fun bargains, such as the under $10 Casita di Mama line from Navarra in Spain or the - get this - sustainably grown Fetzer Valley Oaks line from Mendocino.

Full disclosure - As I said above, I skipped the last few years because I don't get my jollies elbowing my way to a tasting table and discovering four or five patchouli-scented people between me and the nearest spit bucket. I attended both days this weekend because I now write for the Washington Post, which sponsors the festival, and I did a presentation of wines featured in the new TastePost program. But I honestly think most of the few hundred folks I poured wine for had a good time, tried a few good wines they wouldn't have plucked off a store shelf without some prodding - and if they left with a few good wines in mind to try again in a more civilized setting, they probably felt the festival was worthwhile.

And for those of you on Saturday who used the festival as Stage One of your Valentine's Day activities and couldn't wait to get out of there before moving on the Stage Two .... Sheesh, I hope you found a room! :P

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Interesting that of all the wines poured in the hall one of the ones you mention is from Frontaura y Victoria. Their 2004 Crianza was an absolutely outstanding value for the price. I tasted it three times over two hours, repreatedly returning because I thought it was such a good value. I was told that it is only sold in CA but after returning home I can't find it anywhere in the U. S. Nor is it listed on Wine-searcher or winezap. Google only turned up several stores in the U. K. and Germany along with Spain. In any event I've e-mailed their rep from the show and if I can find it I will buy it. I was told at the show it "sells for $26" in the U. S. but the internet shows it selling for L 20 in the U.K. and E 25-28 so my expectation is a list price of $35 or so here. Still, it is a value.

I don't know how many wines the show advertised nor how many wines were actually poured but I it seemed that the overall quality of the wines may have been a step down from previous years. Or more less expensive bottles poured at many of the stands than in years past. If this is true could this have been a reaction on the part of the exhibitors to the market and the economy which has impacted many trade shows and expositions this year? That this is what people are buying now: less expensive wine. Perhaps, because expensive bordeaux is going unsold and a great deal of better wine has lost much of its market this is what is current, this is what sells. But I may be overreacting, I may have missed a great deal in the three halls. I was just looking for a great deal more in the $25-35 range than I found. It seemed that in past years there was more.

Curious, why do you consider the Wine Library an "obscure New Jersey retailer?" I've physically been in it three or four times and absolutely love it (which is probably more than obvious!!!) For better or worse their ferociously competitive pricing has had some impact here. So much so that in VA they are now limited to shipping two cases of wine per month. As far as buying wine out of state I am going to go after the best price I can when I trust the store. Whether it's Total, Calvert Woodley or Arrowine or elsewhere. I've bought from CA and had wine shipped to me from Australia (www.cellarit.com) when the U. S. dollar was 1.75 to the Australian dollar. In years past when the dollar was at par or better with the Euro I would bring as much as a case back with me from business trips in my carry on and suitcase. Now, rarely a bottle. If a D. C. area store gives across the board discounts like the Wine Library and a number of other NJ and NY stores I will buy from them instead. I should note that one recent effect of the economy is that if a person is willing to buy by the case-a wine that must be special ordered-many stores will now negotiate. There is also quite a bit of value in "pooling" money with neighbors and friends to buy in volume if you can agree on the same wine or a number of cases of different wine. 20-25% off in situations like this is becoming a reality with a number of local stores now. Obviously, I also believe that buying by the case should have more than a 10% discount, especially in this market. Less than this is a totally different situation as is the recommendation of a new wine.

I'm just guessing that if my perception that the show was indeed a reaction to the economy AND a concern for how many people would turn out for it and what they might be looking for, that a greater representation of more reasonably priced bottles may have been the practical solution. If this is true, I just had not expected it. In past years I've left feeling that I had four or five or more wines that I really wanted to find. This year just the one that you noted. (Which someone reading this should try to pick up! http://www.bodegasfrontaura.es/ ) As for barolo and bordeaux I rarely drink either these days. A lot of Chilean, Argentinian, Washington state, Spanish and Australian. And most of this around $20-25. After discount....

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