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05.23.2006

Tasting Wilson Daniels' European Portfolio

The average wine drinker doesn't think much about distributors and importers. And why should he? There's not much need to interact with the folks behind the scenes who are responsible for getting wine into stores and restaurants where the public gets a chance to try them. Despite a lack of familiarity with this whole tier of the wine industry, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of different kinds of wine distribution companies. Just as there are different kinds of wine retailers, from the corner liquor store to the highest-end wine retailer on Madison avenue, the range of service, product quality, and focus can be vast.

Of course, just like wine stores, there are distribution companies which become renown for their selection and service, and it is to these distributors that the finest restaurants and retailers turn when they want upper echelon wines. Many of the world's finest wine estates have relationships with only a select few distributors around the world, so often there is just one go-to company for a top-end wine, at least here in the United States.

Wilson Daniels started in 1978 as a small collaboration between Win Wilson and Jack Daniels, two wine industry veterans who wanted to help smaller Napa wineries with marketing and distribution. After a few years of operation they expanded their rapidly successful portfolio to include some European estates in Burgundy. With a reputation for attention to detail and quality, as well as offering to do much more for their clients than a normal distributor (they sometimes even handle packaging, labeling, brand marketing, PR, and pricing) they have gradually established a portfolio of some of the world's greatest wines.

So. When a firm like Wilson Daniels holds a tasting event for journalists and members of the wine trade, it's always a good idea to go, if only to get an opportunity to taste wines that you might never be able to get your hands on, let alone afford.

I recently spent a rainy Spring afternoon tasting through a group of wines from a majority of their top European estates (sadly minus Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), and thought I'd share my tasting notes with you.


SPARKLING

1996 Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $300.
1999 Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $79.
NV Delamotte Brut Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Non-Vintage, Champagne, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $43.
NV Delamotte Brut Rosé Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Non-Vintage, Champagne, France. Score: 8.5. Cost: $70.


WHITES

2004 Morey-Blanc Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $55.
2003 Morey-Blanc Meursault Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $39.

2004 Morey-Blanc Meursault Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $54.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Les Pucelles 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $222.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Les Combettes 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $187.
2001 Domaine Leflaive "Folatières 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $143.
2001 Domaine Leflaive "Clavoillon 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $93.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet" Montagny, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $21.
2000 Morey-Blanc Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Georges Faiveley Chardonnay", Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $17.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Les Villeranges" Rully Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Clavoillon 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5. Cost: $132.

2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Andlau" Riesling, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kastelberg" Riesling Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Wiebelsberg" Riesling Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $38.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Moenchberg" Pinot Gris Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $38.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Lerchenberg" Pinot Gris, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kritt" Pinot Blanc, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $19.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kritt" Gewürztraminer, Alsace. Score: 8.5. Cost: $27.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Clos Rebberg" Pinot Gris, Alsace. Score: 8.5. Cost: $39.

Just an additional tasting note about the Kreydenweiss wines above -- I found them all a bit low in acidity. Great flavors on most of them, but they would have been more exciting if they had more of an edge.

2004 Mastroberardino Radici Fiano, Fiano di Avellino, Italy. Score: 9. Cost: $24.
2004 Mastroberardino "NovaSerra" Greco, Greco di Tufo, Italy. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.

2005 Royal Tokaji Wine Company Furmint (dry), Hungary. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $14.

REDS

2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Perrières 1er Cru" Meursault, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $110.
1998 Maison Faiveley "Les Vignerondes" Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $59.
2001 Domaine Pierre Morey "Les Tessons" Meursault, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $52.
2004 Maison Faiveley "La Combe aux Moines 1er Cru" Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $31.
1998 Maison Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $50.
2004 Maison Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $50.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Les Vignerondes" Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $59.
2004 Maison Faiveley "La Framboisière Monopole" Mercurey, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $26.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Monthelie," Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $33.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Joseph Faiveley" Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $17.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Aligoté," Burgundy, France. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $14.

2003 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Perrières" Red Blend, Costières de Nimes, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $13.

2003 Mastroberardino "Villa dei Misteri," Pompeian, Italy. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $217.
1999 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose "Simposio" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $46.

2001 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi. Score: 9.5. Cost: $41.
1999 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga "Vigna Spuntali" Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5. Cost: $86.
2003 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5. Cost: $22
1999 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $77.
1997 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $80.
2001 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $52.
2003 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose "Simposio" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $53.


DESSERT

1999 Royal Tokaji Wine Company True Essencia, Hungary. Score: 9.5. Cost: $536.
1996 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Nyulaszo" Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $83.
1995 Royal Tokaji Wine Company Aszu Essencia, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $166.
1999 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Betsek" Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $67.
2000 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Red Label" Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9. Cost: $32.

Anyone interested in purchasing these wines would do well to check with Wilson Daniels to find out the limited retail offerings of many of these wines. You can also search for some of these wines using Wine Searcher to find Internet retailers for these wines, of which there are a few, depending on the producer.

Comments (8)

Kevin wrote:
05.24.06 at 6:19 AM

Would love to hear more details on the various Royal Tokaji offerings, as Tokaji Aszú is one of my favorite wines.

Justin wrote:
05.24.06 at 5:08 PM

Just a question to the masses, so to speak of course, as there will always be a place for the importer and distributer, how does everyone feel about the internets increasing role in distribution? More specifically, and I am not saying at any point soon will distribution fall towards the wayside, but perhaps we might see niche markets (SoCal etc.) with internet representation that can increase the profit margin for the winery. I guess my question then becomes do you, collective, think the internet will play a more prominent role in wine sales and winery profit?
You are running a great site, keep it up! Would love to hear how the vines are doing with all this rain.

Justin

Alder wrote:
05.24.06 at 5:39 PM

Justin,

You're mixing direct sales and distribution in ambiguous ways in your question. It's easier to talk about them separately.

Rough definitions to help:

DISTRIBUTION
This is the process by which wineries utilize "middlemen" to whome they sell large (size being relative to the winery's scale) amounts of product at a wholesale cost, and on whom they rely to get their product into places (stores, restaurants, airlines, etc.) where people can buy them, saving them the effort of beating the streats with sample bottles. These same middlemen are relied upon by retailers and restaurants to profide a portfolio of wines to purchase, saving these retail outlets from the effort of scouring the wine world for interesting wines.

DIRECT SALES
The process of the winery bypassing (or augmenting, most likely) their distribution channel by selling wine directly to consumers (most common) or to retailers (much less common).

THE ROLE OF THE INTERNET
The Internet already plays a prominent role in traditional distribution. Many distributors allow retailers to place orders over the web, for instance. As retailers and distributors become more technology enabled, this will only increase but it won't change the fundamental underlying relationships, in my opinion.

Direct sales is where the internet is going to have increasing impact, as more wineries become interested in selling to consumers directly (mostly because consumers are willing to buy from them directly) as well as selling to retailers directly (because many wineries can't find distributors who are willing to carry their products).

The degree of impact that the internet has (technically, the amount of disintermediation that is possible) is not limited by capabilities or penetration of technology. At the moment it's limited by legislation. If and when the recent Supreme Court decision translates into legislation in all 50 states allowing interstate shipment of wines and direct sales from wineries to consumers and to retailers, then there will be a lot of change.

Of course, there will be many wineries (I predict mostly medium sized ones) that will continue to rely on the services of distributors both because it makes sense from a cost perspective, and because those services are usually value added (involving marketing and sales help in addition to just getting wine from one place to another).

Justin wrote:
05.25.06 at 1:42 PM

Adler,
Thank you for your response and for the clarification.

Alder wrote:
05.26.06 at 9:25 AM

Kevin,

Hmm. What more can I tell you about the Royal Tokaji offering. The latest Essencia is sold in a big wooden box and comes with a special crystal tasting spoon, the idea being that you should serve it by the spoonful rather than by the glass. I don't have a lot of details about the wines, but you can certainly read more on the importers web site.

Stuart wrote:
05.14.07 at 12:30 AM

Can't for the life of me find any information on Domaine Marc Morey. Anyone has any ideas please let me know.

Alder wrote:
05.14.07 at 11:03 AM

Stuart,

You can find out more on the Wilson Daniels site : http://www.wilsondaniels.com/brand.php?id=60&sessionID=REHkNU2cdQBABgN9

Terry J. Kohler wrote:
09.17.08 at 2:47 PM

We are looking for Kumeu River Pinot Noir. Have contacted the winery directly, and they informed us that you have the above in stock. Can you ship to Wisconsin? Thank you.

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