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BERGER: Tricks and hidden costs to get rid of wine

Go away.

No, this is not a demand for someone to depart. In this case it refers to the sale of wines that have not sold.

Every winery faces this situation at one time or another: a number of cases of wine that have not sold. In some cases, there is nothing wrong with the wine — it merely hasn't sold in a prescribed period of time, for various reasons.

At some point the winery or wholesaler has to decide how to make the wine "go away," in the parlance of the trade.

This phrase means the winery would like to sell the wine for almost any price, because it's taking up valuable floor space, may cost tax dollars, and is simply not getting any better.

But making wine disappear is more complicated than it appears. The winery can't afford to deeply discount a wine of which it has succeeding vintages for at least two reasons:

- The deeply discounted price casts a negative image on the winery, implying that the wine never was worth the original price for which it was sold.

- The following vintage will be seen as overpriced by comparison.

So the best way to make wine go away without such complications often means a bit of subterfuge. If a wine was bottled with a blank (unbranded) cork, it's possible to remove the labels and foils, re-label and re-foil the bottle and sell the wine to retailers such as independent grocery chains. Such wine usually has a name unconnected to the producer.

If a wine is worth a lot of money, its label is one reason it will command a top price, and selling it at a lower-than-suggested price becomes a trick, notably because the brand owner rarely wants to see such wines widely advertised as being discounted.


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