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the allocations game – how not to play

One thing’s for sure; I’m not alone, and there’s also that saying about ‘pissing into the wind’ too, but having been bitten more than once this year in the ‘allocations game’ I cannot but help the cathartic tap of the keyboard.

I suppose it’s my demographic – basically I’m too democratic – multiple merchants for multiple bottles; maximimum 6-packs, more typically 3 bottles of each – oh and I only (95%) buy burgundy. No merchant racks up (many) ‘thousands’ in sales despite that (probably – we none of us want to look too closely do we?) being the year-end total. I can also be my own worst enemy, feeling slighted? – no problem, send them all back – a salesperson once told me that they had never seen an allocation of DRC (02) refused before – they might yet see it over the 2004 allocation too! I was probably also silly rejecting 6 bottles of Fourrier’s doubtlessly stunning 2005 Clos St.Jacques (amongst several other cuvées in that parcel), simply because I didn’t get 1 measly bottle of Griotte after buying it consistently for years, but we’re all different. Also, don’t get me wrong, I would have rejected the parcel if I’d got no CSJ too – it’s a principle thing, not a Griotte thing.

How do you win in the allocations game? Buying everything the merchant has in every vintage is probably the only way – despite some merchants saying that they have an eye for bringing on younger buyers (for the future) this is frankly BS; given consistent buying (each vintage) you will still be muscled out by the ‘money-players’ in a sought-after vintage – at least if your demographic matches mine.

Wine from Burgundy is finite, and if more people want it, what’s to be done? Allocations will slowly reduce – it’s inevitable – but why should a consistent buyer be told ‘sorry, but there’s nothing for you this year’. It happens and that’s life – I can live with it – though it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Still there’s always wine to buy and I’m sure I won’t be missed.

4 responses to “the allocations game – how not to play”

  1. Phil

    Bill, I gave up with EP some years back, like you I went to multiple merchants all for Burgundy orders only to be told more often than not, its not worth the effort to split a box. Howard Ripley has now started from 2005 plus any old full case stock not to split, whats the point in playing unless your minted ?

    I now content myself with picking up what I can and Knocking on doors up and down the Cote – its surprising what you can get from a personnel visit. And to missquote Forest Gump “Burgundy is like a box of chocolates – you never know what your gonna get” !

    Phil

  2. Richard Brooks

    Cutting back a regular customer’s allocation seems to me to be bad business for the merchant, as it destroys the incentive to be a loyal buyer. It’s not like you are asking for a special price, just the opportunity to be one of the first in line to buy on the same terms as everyone else!

    Of course, if the merchant has their allocation cut then it may be impossible for them to maintain all their customers’ allocations. In which case, I’d expect an explanation of what was going to happen.

    I confidently expect this situation to get much worse. Given the tiny production of so many Burgundies, we could well end up with the top wines being sold direct from Domaines, by the bottle, in en-primeur auctions.

  3. howard knill

    I have struggled particularly with 2005s and I believe that the old style merchants who “offer a service” really enjoy their power despite their protestations. True enthusiasts will not “buy the list” to get what they really want and certainly in the UK market I think that there is some hope. The process of allocation has turned me away for good from two UK suppliers one of whom I have spent thousands with over the years and the other who promised me an allocation of Comte Armand and then forgot about the promise.

    A little thing called the net will slowly drive these dinosaurs out. Imagine the staff numbers required to properly handle allocations and in the end you brass off good customers. There are increasing numbers of sellers who just put it on their websites and let the fleet of foot buy what is available. This does not loose you customers if I do not get there quickly enough I do not form a negative view of their service.

    You need to know what you are looking for and act quickly. This removes the power from the crusty old buffers who tell you how difficult it all is and then tell you how they are thrilled that six new customers have bought the list and got everything they want.

    Do they think that this type of buyer will be around in the non Parker years ?

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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