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01.14.2009

Good Time to Get on Those Winery Mailing Lists

velvet_rope.jpgBuy low, sell high, the saying goes. And don't forget to take advantage of the downturn if you can. I wrote two months ago about how now is a good time to buy wine. The auction markets continue to soften, as my buddy Eric Asimov noted recently.

It also occurs to me, however, that if you were in the habit of or aspire to buy high-end wine, now might also be a great time to get on top winery mailing lists.

The most sought after wines in America are sold almost exclusively to their mailing list customers. Getting on these lists is an exercise in patience and determination, as there is often a long waiting list before you get on the list itself, which gives you the option of buying the wine.

Here's how these lists work. The longer you are on the list, the more wine you are offered to buy. But in order to stay on the list, as well as to get the opportunity to buy more wine (or to buy the specific wine you want) you generally have to buy the wines that are offered to you. The more you buy, the more you are offered next time, and the more chance you have to buy what you really want.

But if you fail to buy your allocation, you slip in the rankings, or sometimes are even booted off the list entirely. Then someone from below you gets offered your wine, and then someone below them moves up, and so on and so forth until you get to the bottom of the list and, presto, someone gets on from the waiting list.

Getting the opportunity to buy highly allocated wines off of a mailing list can take ages. However, because moving through the waiting list onto the main list generally happens only when people fail to buy their allocations, the chances are much better in times when people aren't buying so much expensive wine.

Which, of course, would be right about now.

I'm guessing that there will be more people than usual deciding to skip their biannual purchase of big ticket wines (which assuredly have not dropped in price), which will mean that lots of people will be getting the opportunity to buy that haven't had that opportunity before.

Of course, for the really sought-after wines, it's not people that sign up now that will be getting to buy wine, it's people that signed up a year ago, or two years ago, or in some cases 5 years ago.

But if buying such wines is your thing, you'll move along the list a lot faster, I'm betting, if your name is on it right about now.

If you take my advice and jump on a list and get access to some fabulous wine, feel free to send me a bottle.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.