The pandemic of 2020 has acted as a perverse fun-house mirror, reflecting the sudden size of some companies and the diminishment of others. In the wine community, one company that blew up in size is wine.com, uniquely positioned to benefit from the public stresses of lockdown—offering contact-free shopping for people suddenly in need of a drink. Michael Osborn, who founded the internet site in the late 1990s, told me that sales over the 12 months ending December 2020 were $329 million, more than double their sales a year earlier. And sales have continued to grow this spring, at a time when many bars and restaurants—previously popular places to buy a drink—were either reduced to a shadow of their former sales, or gone.
Given the sudden gigantism of companies from wine.com to Amazon, it’s a wonder that any small businesses have found their way through the COVID crisis. But, as Jared Hooper reports in his story on page 6, those who have found ways to build communities have found success. He caught up with several sommeliers who have been working to bring their restaurant community to their own retail niche and are just now opening their doors.
If you’re lucky enough to be vaccinated and can wander into those new shops, it’s more than likely that you, like the rest of us, are still feeling the effects of the pandemic fun-house mirror on personal finances. Some readers may have found themselves in the right place at the right time, but for many others, finances are tight, and value in whatever wine we may buy is more important than ever.
We’ve devoted much of this issue to wines that over deliver for under $20, or under $15 or $12. Our 40 Value Brand All-Stars offer an around-the-world tour with some terrific drinking along the way. And our Top 100 Values will introduce you to bottles that are remarkably affordable for the pleasure they deliver. In addition, if you have a taste for New Orleans gumbo, the folks at Herbsaint have provided a recipe, and six local retailers have some affordable wine recommendations for you.
While many supply chains are filled with kinks, the supply of affordable wine seems to be holding up. We hope you can find a few good bottles to toast your friends’ vaccinations—the new celebration event of 2021—and maybe your own as well.
This story appears in the print issue of June 2021.
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