In the last 25 years, imported wine has become fascinating for many American wine lovers.
Starting about 2003, we began buying more imported wines than in any prior year, and one reason was that millennial wine lovers, who were just reaching the legal drinking age, fell in love with the diversity we began to see in reasonably priced wines from Europe.
European wine reached such a strong position in the U.S. market in 2003 that it represented one bottle in every four sold here. A reason for that was that several wine-making nations took huge steps to appeal directly to the American wine consumer.
Spain, France, and Italy have long sold lots of fairly priced wines here.
Imports continue to command attention in spite of the fact that the euro traded for much of the last decade at close to $1.25. This meant that we were paying more for European wines than we had in the late 1990s.
Now, however, anyone paying close attention to the currency markets knows that the euro has, in the last few months, taken a major nosedive.
With the U.S. dollar and the euro now approximately dead even in trading value, prices for European wines here may begin to soften and even drop a bit. You may think this will lead to a lot of wine bargains, but it won't be particularly visible in wines selling for less than about $20 per bottle.
Almost regardless of currency fluctuations, inexpensive wines rarely make a lot of money, partially as a result of fixed costs including marketing, shipping, and warehousing. And large producers usually take orders for large amounts of wine on contracts, and those contracts could represent many more months before they expire.
Currency traders now say that they expect the euro to decline even further. (A few days ago, the euro was 99 U.S. cents.) One currency trader told me last week that he anticipates the euro will bottom out somewhere around $0.80 to the U.S. dollar.
If so, this would be roughly 40 percent less than it has been for years. So, is there a way to take advantage of the weak euro?
Yes, and it's called the wine futures market. But it is tricky. Buying wine futures is a game that requires serious homework as well as a broad knowledge of what you're doing. But it can pay dividends. Here's a brief look at how it works.
Say you love German riesling and prefer the wines of one producer, say, Fritz Haag. For the last four years or so, quality German rieslings have risen in price by about 30 percent, so in-demand many of them are. Fritz Haag's 2021 Trocken (dry) riesling has a national average Suggested Retail Price (SRP) of about $23 a bottle.
Several stores around the country offer futures on various wines, usually expensive Bordeaux red wines. But I have bought futures on German rieslings and usually save about 30 percent to 40 percent over the SRP. In the case of the above wine, a year ago that meant paying around $15 for it. Either a partial or full payment must be paid upfront, which means working with reliable stores.
But at today's dollar/euro ratio, I'd expect the 2022 Fritz Haag Trocken to be offered on futures at, say, $12. Or, roughly half of what the 2021 now sells for.