I’ve been buying wine for 25+ years now. I don’t recall Mystery Wines being a thing decades ago but they have clearly risen to prominence in the last few years. From what I gather a Mystery Wine is typically a wine that has been deeply discounted by either the winery or the distributor. They turn to a retailer (more often than not Garagiste) to offer the wine at a steep discount. The catch is that the retailer can’t disclose the name of the wine in their marketing emails or on their website. In not doing so the discounted wine remains somewhat under the radar by not appearing on sites like Wine Searcher. It seems somewhat silly to me because ultimately Garagiste must ship the wine and the mystery is over.
Below is a portion of an email describing a Mystery Wine previously offered by Garagiste:
“It can also be one of the most revered and 2-3 highest scoring examples of Pinot Noir in the United States, depending on vintage (not just in the Russian River Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains or Sonoma Coast – the ENTIRE United States). I will go even further to say that, within the past 3-4 years, an acclaimed vintage of this wine has been the highest scoring Pinot Noir in the US by one of the top four US journals (WA, IWC/Vinous, WS, Burghound). Not one of the top – the top. To take this line of reasoning one step further, EVERY vintage of this wine is highly acclaimed and, last but not least, the vintage we offer today is the highest scoring rendition of this wine (out of all the vintages) by one of the top four US wine journals listed above. I cannot reveal exact scores, vintage or pricing information but (to the winery’s knowledge) there has never been a bottle traded for less than $50 (even on a super-crazy bin-end closeout) and it is more typically in the $60-80+ range from discount sources (I just looked a moment ago and the average is right around $70).”
The wine was offered for $29 with a per customer limit of 48 bottles (I guess you’re out of luck if you want 50 bottles).
Ultimately the wine delivered was the 2011 Evening Land Pinot Noir La Source.
Even knowing what the Mystery Wine was I would not have bought at the $29 price point. I certainly would not have bought based on puff piece email from Garagiste. One of the top 2-3 Pinots in the United States? Not a chance. Top 2-3 Pinots don’t languish on a retailers shelf or distributors floor. Maybe I have been doing this too long but for my hard earned dollars I will skip on rolling the dice and go buy something like Marcel Lapierre Morgon for just about half the price of the Evening Land La Source. A world class Beaujolais or a wine that was overpriced to begin with? Easy choice for me.
If you ever find yourself tempted by a Mystery Wine feel free to comment on this blog post and I will give you a better option, you can likely find at your local wine store, without the mystery.
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