Economy Forces Some To Buy Less Expensive Wine

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During hard times economic times, everybody seems to be buying less — even people who still have jobs. The recession is scary. But what better way to calm the nerves than with a nice glass of wine. Wine lovers and the people who supply their favorite beverage are finding ways to get by in the recession.


Everybody buys less in scary times like these, but maybe you can still relax a bit by buying a glass of wine. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on how wine lovers and the people who supply wine are getting by in tough times.

Mr. STEVE GREER(ph): What do you prefer? California, New World, Old World?

Ms. JENNIFER BUDDAI(ph): The three of us, we just want drinkable, you know.

INA JAFFE: Steve Greer is a salesman at K&L Wines in Hollywood. He's helping Jennifer Buddai shop for a get-together with her sisters.

Ms. BUDDAI: Excellent.

Mr. GREER: This is from all Napa Valley fruit for only $10. So you'll stay under budget, and both wines are excellent.

Ms. BUDDAI: Second time you guys have gotten me under budget, and I love that and that brings me back.

JAFFE: The economy may have headed south, but co-owner of K&L, Trey Beffa, says the customers are still coming through the door.

Mr. TREY BEFFA (Vice President of Operations, K&L Wines): Maybe even buying a little bit more of just less expensive wine. One of our best selling wines this holiday was a cabernet from Napa that was $10.99, where we sold, you know, hundreds and hundreds of cases. So it was great.

JAFFE: Store manager Tom Martinez says customers are reevaluating their priorities these days, and their wine purchases reflect that.

Mr. TOM MARTINEZ( Senior Sales Associate, Manager, K&L Wines): OK, do I need best? Is better OK in the good, better, best, analogy? So I think a lot of people are dropping down a notch.

JAFFE: Everyone in the wine and food world seems to be focused on helping consumers find the good deals. Heather John is the wine and spirits editor of Bon Appetit magazine. Your office probably has file cabinets, her office has a well-stocked six-foot tall wine rack and some fancy glassware.

Ms. HEATHER JOHN (Bon Appetit Magazine) : Needless to say, I'm pretty popular around here.

JAFFE: And popular also with her budget-minded readers. In the January issue of Bon Appetit, she wrote a piece featuring 20 wines from around the world, both red and white, that cost 10 bucks or less. Of course, recommending 20 wines meant tasting way more than that.

Ms. JOHN: It was probably more like 40 or 50 or 60. We did taste a lot of wines and spit, but it was a lot of fun researching it.

JAFFE: No kidding. But it was work, too. John's swilled a lot of cheap plunk so you won't have to.

Ms. JOHN: Not every one was necessarily enjoyable, but the good wines that we tasted really rose to the top here. And that's what's exciting when you find a really great bargain for $10 or less.

JAFFE: People aren't just changing what they're drinking, they're changing where they're drinking it, says Gladys Horiuchi, communications director for The Wine Institute, which represents California wine producers.

Ms. GLADYS HORIUCHI (Communication Manager, The Wine Institute): Not as much discretionary income to, say, go out and eat. Not as much business travel. So people are buying more wine in grocery stores.

JAFFE: And drinking it at home. Sales in grocery stores are up seven percent, says Horiuchi, so are exports of California wines to other countries. Even in these tough times, some wine lovers do not want to compromise. Marcus Facitti(ph) was standing in the Italian aisle at K&L cradling a couple of bottles of Nebbiolo at about 22 bucks apiece.

Mr. MARCUS FACITTI: You know, the economy has affected me in lots of areas and thus far I - you know, I still like my table red. So I'm still drinking it. I mean, I've always picked prices between like 15 and 25 anyway, so it's like, I'm not going down to the next level. I might take clothes away or something else, but my wine, you know, it's still important.

JAFFE: Maybe he'll just enjoy that Italian red with a burger instead of a steak. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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