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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2004


Valley wine buyers gravitate to values

Express Staff Writer

After years of paying top dollar for high-end wines, many Wood River Valley residents are now following a national trend of seeking out exceptional values in the wine market.

"There has been a noticeable shift toward value-based wines," said Dodds Hayden, owner and president of the Ketchum office of Hayden Beverage Co., based in Boise.

Hayden said area wine consumers have discovered that local distributors are offering an increasing number of first-rate wines that sell on the retail shelf for $10 to $20—and in some cases, less.

One of Hayden’s most successful wines is Yellowtail, an Australian brand that offers several varietal wines for approximately $7 per bottle in the retail market.

Frazer Ford, general manager of Ketchum-based J.W. Thornton Wine Imports, said his business is selling less high-end wines than in the 1990s, when the national economy was stronger.

Boutique cabernet sauvignons from California’s Napa Valley and costly pinot noirs from France’s Burgundy region "used to fly out the door," Ford said.

"Now it’s very different," he said. "The new trend is toward $6, $7 and $8 wines. People really want value."

Ford said the strength of the Euro and the relative weakness of the dollar overseas have served to lessen the value of many European wines.

Craig Spiller, manager of Sun Valley Wine Co., a retail market and wine bar in Ketchum, said the soft economy and a glut of wine grapes in the world market have driven wine prices down from their heights of the late 1990s.

At the same time, the quality of lower-priced wines has improved greatly, he said.

As for the preferences of local consumers, Spiller said many customers continue to buy long-popular varietals such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Yet, numerous consumers are willing to experiment, Spiller noted.

"I’m selling more French rosés than ever before."

Tom Pyle, manager of Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum, said his store’s most popular wine varietal is chardonnay. Zinfandel and syrah are increasing in popularity, Pyle said.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.