Friday, February 09, 2007

Bordeaux Step 4: Buying your Bordeaux

Now onto the fun stuff: buying Bordeaux.

There are two ways to buy Bordeaux. The first I call opportunistic (that is, you walk in the shop, see a bottle you want, and buy it), the second I call strategic (that is, you order wine as a future or pre-arrival and wait for up to two years to feel the bottle in your hot little hand). In both cases, however, it is absolutely crucial that you buy Bordeaux from a merchant that you trust. And, ideally, your merchant should be someone with whom you have developed some kind of a working relationship. You want to be able to ask questions, and to know that the answers are reliable. You also need to know that this is a merchant who is going to be around if there are problems with your shipment. Indeed, you need to feel confident this merchant will still be in business when your wine finally arrives long after you've paid for it.

First, opportunistic Bordeaux buying. You can always go into your favorite wine merchant and ask them if they have any Bordeaux wines on the shelf. Some will have aged Bordeaux, and others will have freshly arrived Bordeaux that may or may not be ready to drink. It's important that you trust your merchant, in this case, because you don't want to buy older Bordeaux that hasn't been stored properly, or newer Bordeaux that hasn't been shipped and received properly. Who wants cooked Bordeaux? Not me.

When it comes to strategic Bordeaux buying, trusting your merchant is just as important for reasons of storage and receiving, but you have to add to this the real worries that I always have about shipping. There are merchants that specialize in shipping wine, though, and it pays to find them. Often, big online merchants such as K&L have great selections and prices and I typically browse their futures and pre-arrival wines, find what I want, order them, pay for them, and then wait for them to arrive 18 months to 2 years later. When they do arrive from K&L, I know that they will arrive in a sturdy box (picture 1), packed into styrofoam silos or some other packing material that provide some insulation from temperature changes as well as breakage (picture 2), and that I will actually receive what I ordered (picture 3). I have a long relationship with K&L and had received lots of wines from them without any problem for almost 10 years before I started buying Bordeaux futures. They have excellent customer service, too, as Vivi's Wine Journal reported back in November. On the east coast, I've ordered wines as gifts for family out there from The Wine Library in NJ and I've never had a bad experience with them, either. The wines are always correct, they always arrive in impeccable condition, and I've experienced great customer service during the order and delivery process.

Simply put, finding a merchant that you know and can trust takes a lot of anxiety and stress out of buying Bordeaux. If you have any recommendations for Bordeaux merchants in your area, or online merchants that you have used, please leave a comment and let us all know. Beginning next week: the final three posts on the research you need to do to make the best buying choices.


Anonymous said...

Nice to hear about Wine Library service. I've been considering 05 futures from them (but I'll probably wait until 06 before I jump in). Gary Vaynerchuk is a hoot, and I've got the feeling he's becoming the Parker for the Gen Y crowd. (twizzlers and skittles anyone?)

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Paul. I've been really pleased with Wine Library--they're now my go-to place to send 1/2 a case of really interesting wine to my brother-in-law for Christmas. The prices are great, and they always arrive in great condition--even in the midst of holiday UPS hysteria. Gary is one of a kind, it is true, and brings lots of passion and general zaniness to what he's doing. But, he also really knows what he's talking about!

Joe said...

Nice series - I just received the last of my 2003 futures (no Cantemerle) in the fall, and I am now patiently waiting for them to be ready. In the meantime, I have ordered selected 2004s for some verticals I am building (Pontet-Canet, mainly), and from 2005 I ordered some of the lesser wineries that had a great year (Pibran and D'Angludet, plus Pontet Canet). Cheers!

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, Joe. Bordeaux is a fun thing to do, isn't it? I'm just finally deciding on which 2005 futures to order from K&L, and also contemplating the verticals issue. Since up until now I've mostly done opportunistic Bordeaux buying, it's still all a bit new to me and I've got such limited space I don't want to get overambitious!

David said...

yes, these have been very informative pieces. thanks for including an East Coast connection, I'll have to check them out.

Dr. Debs said...

Glad you've liked them, David. There's a few more on research-related items (appellations, reading barrel-sample reports, and that all-important patience!) so stay tuned until March when the new buyers guides come out.