Anatomy of a wine deal: The process I go through when considering an offer

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A compelling local offer [MA only] hit my inbox today. After watching this space for several years, I've become systematic in how I consider an offer.

Quite a few retailers subscribe to this site, so I thought it would be interesting to walk through the process both from a consumer's perspective as well as to those who write the offers.

This particular offer came from Mike O'Connell from Upper Falls Liquors.

Here is a link to the offer.

Am I interested in the category?

The subject line is key and goes a long way towards determining whether I'll open the email or click on the tweet. This one was well formed because it told us a lot about the offer without revealing the producer:

Preposterous Pinot deal. Over 50% off 92pt Gap's Crown Gem.

California Pinot Noir continues to be one of my favorite categories so I'd be inclined to look at the offer based on a mention of a "preposterous Pinot deal" alone. But adding the Gap's Crown vineyard really had me intrigued. Some of my favorite producers source fruit for single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Gap's Crown: Kosta Browne, MacPhail, Sojourn, Patz & Hall, plus many more.

I've really liked what I've tasted from Gap's Crown so as I clicked through the link I kind of hoped it would be from a producer I was familiar with. At 50% off!

Producer Pedigree

But no such luck. The wine being offered is the 2012 Guarachi Gap's Crown Pinot Noir. I've heard the name Guarachi, but I've never tasted their wines before and I've not heard much buzz about them. I don't know anything about them.

The first thing I do in this case is go to CellarTracker to get the community read on the wine. Here's the link for the CellarTracker page for this wine.

In this case, there aren't a ton of notes for the wine, which is to be expected given its low production level.

I look at the average community rating. In this case, a couple 91s and a 93.

If I didn't know the retailer offering the wine, I'd be on the lookout for recent reviews "planted" by someone to bolster the offer. You never know.

Then, to get a feel for how each reviewer generally scores wines I might click through to their profile to see how generous they are with big scores. In the case of the reviewer who rated the wine 93 points I see that they also rated the 2010 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Pinot Noir 97 points. So it's clear they're not afraid to toss around big numbers and their 93 might not mean as much as it otherwise would.

Overall, it sounds like a solid bottle of Pinot Noir. Not amazing, but certainly very good at least.

I consult CellarTracker for Community Ratings,
Average Price paid, and more

Validating Data

A 92 point rating by Wine Spectator is compelling. I've been watching Wine Spectator's ratings for years, and I have a good handle on the realtive scarcity of a 92 point California Pinot Noir.

Primarily, I'm looking to see that the retailer's facts check out. Sometimes people make mistakes and refer to the wrong rating. In this case, the data checks out. The retailer cited a 92 point rating, and that is indeed the rating. The Release Price cited by Spectator is $75. The retailer cites a Shelf Price of $79.99. Close enough.

I also look at the production level, which Spectator cites as 827 to get a feel for whether it is a widely available wine. If it is, I'll expect to see more competition on pricing. For example, take Meiomi Pinot Noir with its 317,000 case production. I'd never go for an online offer that didn't include shipping for Meiomi given its price point and broad distribution. However, with a wine like this Guarachi, I'm not likely to find a lot of global price competition so if I want it, I should go for it through this deal.

I consult Wine Spectator (subscription req'd) to
validate ratings and check release prices/production levels

Finally, I check Wine-Searcher to get a feel for what the wine is selling for across the country. Not that I'd actually buy it from an out of state retailer (who likely can't ship here anyway) but I want to get a feel for what this wine is going for. In this case, it supports the numbers in the CellarTracker community average.

I consult Wine-Searcher to get a feel for how much a
specific wine is selling for across the country

Moment of Truth

So everything checks out. This is indeed an opportunity to buy a 92 point Wine Spectator single vineyard California Pinot Noir that normally sells for around $60 for $35 a bottle.

The final thing I check, if I'm interested in the wine and perhaps ironically, is the retailers description of the wine. Some people might start there but that's now how I tend to operate. Mike describes it as "Meiomi on steroids". It's as if he's targeting me, knowing I'm a fan of Meiomi.

But that description doesn't quite jive with Laube's where he calls it "tannic and slow to unfold". I'm beginning to see why this wine isn't flying off the shelves perhaps. High price, conflicting descriptions. Hmm. I'm starting to get cold feet...

And speaking of Meiomi - that wine can be had for like $14/btl if you're clever and it too was rated 92 points by Wine Spectator. $14 or $35 - which would you choose? I tend to think I would enjoy the Guarachi but having never had it I'm starting to make a different comparision.

See, I've been reading this fascinating book called Predictably Irrational. It talks about "anchor pricing" and how we view purchase decisions in relative terms. In this case the anchor price is the $79.99 and we're viewing $35 as a deal relative to the retail price. But at the same time, $35 can be viewed in comparison to the $14 Meiomi since they were both rated 92 points, right?

Finally, I start to think abour procurement. Local pick-up. Not super-convenient to me, but not terribly difficult either. This is where things like "free" shipping come into play. Ariely's book also talks about "the power of free". I think free shipping is most powerful in terms of relieving the final objection a customer might have before clicking "buy".

Truly finally, I think: Do I want to risk buying 6 bottles of a wine I've never had before that I might not enjoy? Maybe I should go in on it with some friends? Maybe I don't need any more wine right now. I don't know...

It's this final bit of indecision that consumers and retailers will both acknowledge is key. If you don't buy something in the first 10 minutes you're probably never going to buy it. Because there's always a better deal right around the corner and your credit card can live to fight another day.

Bottom Line

I still haven't decided whether to go for this particular offer, but I thought it would be interesting to pause and write about the thought process I go through when considering an offer.

From a consumer's perspective, if you're actively buying and building up your cellar I hope some of the tips are useful. CellarTracker, Wine Spectator, Wine-Searcher.

From a retailer's perspective, the fine folks who craft these offers, I hope this is useful as well. I really appreciate what you do. The more you do to make it easy for us to make informed decisions the better. I really like Wine-Searcher and CellarTracker links in offer emails for example.

If you'd like to go for this particular deal you can find it here:

Preposterous Pinot deal. Over 50% off 92pt Gap's Crown Gem


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