Incontrovertible proof that the wine business has changed forever

The Wine Curmudgeon was at World Market yesterday buying Rene Barbier Mediterranean white, which was on sale for $4. And what did I pass next to the checkout counter on my way to the wine department in the back? A locked display case of Dom Perignon Champagne.

Dom, as it’s known in the trade, starts at around $100 a bottle. It’s not unusual for liquor stores (and even grocery stores) to sell both cheap and expensive wine, but World Market’s philosophy has mostly centered around less expensive wines. In Dallas, its prices are usually the lowest; while there will be some $20 or more wine, it’s rarely anything in Dom’s class. More, after the jump:

Why does this mean that the wine world has changed? First, because Dom Perignon is a luxury brand, and how many luxury brands are sold at World Market? That the company is selling wine in World Market says a lot about how desperate it is to get on store shelves that cater to customers with the slightest resemblance to its demographics. Young women go to World Market to buy bamboo furniture, which is hardly high-end wine.

When Dom started selling to warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s some 10 years ago, the wine business had a fit. I was at a lunch when a retailer, point blank, asked a Dom representative why Dom was trying to take business away from him. The Dom person shrugged and said the company had to put the wine where it would sell. That Dom is in World Market is just another step in this process.

Second, that the recession, despite glimmers of good news, is still depressing high-end wine sales. And what do you do if you’re a high-end wine company with lots of wine to sell but you don’t want to discount prices? Because we haven’t seen any $80 Dom (which is interesting, because World Market is famous for discounting Veuve Clicquot). You find more places to sell your wine, even if they aren’t a perfect for your brand.

Ten or 15 years ago, Dom Perignon in World Market was unthinkable. Today, it’s no big deal. That is a change to ponder.

4 Responses to Incontrovertible proof that the wine business has changed forever

  1. Jeff says:

    Thanks again for your blog and the incidental heads-up that the best ultra-cheap White in the world was on sale at World Market. Will get there this weekend.
    Think I’ll also freeze a few grapes to toss in the glass with ol’ Barbier.

  2. bburnsey says:

    Anybody know the wholesaler’s cost on Dom these days? How much is World Market picking up on that sale? No matter, percentages can’t be put in the bank. Probably 10 cases of Rene Barbier sold to one bottle of Dom.

  3. As an fyi, Costco is the largest seller of Dom in the world.

  4. Matt says:

    I don’t think that the fact that Dom is in World Market means anything about the wine business having changed at all. For decades now, pizza places and wing places next to softball complexes have offered a pizza special with a bottle of Dom enticing champion teams to splurge and all have a half glass of Dom Perignon to toast thier success. Anyway, the demographics of a World Market are generally better for the brand than a package store located just down the street. The real change in the wine business in the past few years is the “bait and switch” model of Total wine. Bring them in the door with low low prices on name brands and then insteead trade them over to Total’ private label brands at a significant margin for the retailer. They generally never even put on display the wines that they are advertising and marking up just barely above cost, because they DO NOT want you to buy them. They want you to buy They now have 73 stores and will do more than $1 billion in sales this year. Here is what the California stores are featuring at their tastings: Cruz Alta Chardonnay Reserve
    Flichman Cabernet Misterio
    Mendoza Station Torrontes
    Phebus Malbec Reserva
    Conte Fini Pinot Grigio
    Oak Grove Chardonnay Reserve
    Muirwood Chardonnay Arroyo Seco
    D’Atrefois Pinot Noir
    Kitchen Sink Red Blend
    Coastline Cabernet Paso Robles
    THAT my friend, is the incontrovertible proof that the wine business has changed forever.

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