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5 Things Elite Wineries Don’t Want You To Know

If you dream of an aspirational wine country lifestyle, you can certainly take your luxury sedan for a spin through Napa Valley, spend hundreds of dollars at tasting rooms of famous wineries, and go home happy with a bottle or two tucked into your designer leather bag. But if you’re a savvy shopper with expensive tastes (or just want to enjoy good wine without paying a lot for it), the best deals are online.

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1. Expensive wine doesn’t cost a lot to make

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The cost to produce a $10 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine isn’t dramatically different. The biggest variable is the price of grapes which is a reflection of their quality and/or their source (and a bit of supply and demand). Generally speaking, adding up the price of grapes, bottle, cork and label, the cost to produce even the finest bottle of wine doesn’t exceed $20.

2. A wine for sale on the store shelf has been marked up 30%, twice

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In the USA, the adult beverage industry is beholden to a 3-tier system to sell wine. This system which dates back to Prohibition requires the winery (producer) to sell to a distributor who sells to a retailer who sells to the consumer (you). Middlemen mark up the price at every step of the way, usually around 30%.

3. Most wineries produce more than they can sell

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While we think of wine as a romantic, luxury commodity, it is actually an agricultural product. Winemakers are given whatever the harvest provides in any given year. This happens even at the highest level; Mother Nature does not discriminate. When wineries plan their sales forecast, they can’t foresee a larger-than-normal crop or a bout of frost. As a result, selling all of your wine before the next vintage arrives can be a challenge.

4. To protect their brand, high end wineries “declassify” excess wine in discreet deals

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Owning a winery is a rocky business – sometimes there’s a short harvest, sometimes there’s a shortage of cash, sometimes they’re outright selling to new ownership. Regardless of the reason, at any given time, there are thousands of cases of very expensive wine out there exchanging hands between wineries or being made available to négociant (wine trader) companies like Cameron Hughes Wine, who quietly buys excess inventory from elite producers and resells the same wine under its own label at significantly discounted prices.

5. The best place to buy wine is online

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If you live in the US, chances are high you’ve made an online purchase in the past week. All kinds of sectors are realizing the power of the internet as a great enabler, evidenced by the proliferation of companies that disintermediate by sourcing high quality goods and offering them directly to you at a fraction of the price. Eyewear, clothing, cosmetics, luggage and food from the likes of Warby Parker, Everlane, Birch Box – the list is endless. Now top quality wine is becoming more widely available online. Did you know you can buy Pinot Noir with your toilet paper and electronics from Amazon?

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