On Transparency

I started Tidewater for lots of reasons, and the ideas that led to its creation have been percolating for a long time. Some of those ideas have been around since my early days working as a sommelier and wine buyer almost thirteen years ago. Others have surfaced fairly recently. I started chewing on the majority of them somewhere in between. The wine business has changed a lot over the years, but the lack of transparency in the trade is still what bothers me most. So I thought for this blog post I would do my best to illuminate what TWC is doing to shine a light on the business. To wit…

Transparency in Pricing. I use a sliding scale for everything in the Wine Shop. For Ponga Sauvignon Blanc, the least expensive wine in the Shop, I use a full retail markup of 40%. For the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (heavenly) I use 28%. Hopefully by curating the wines I have already added some value. The Ruinart will smoke Dom Pérignon ($200) in a blind tasting. The Le Vieux Donjon will beat any Châteauneuf-du-Pape under $100. When you add the sliding scale I think TWC can compete with anyone in terms of value. I use the same brutal standards for wines that are priced in the $20-30 range. Not so many truly bad wines out there these days. The problem is the average ones. 

Transparency in Information. The snobby sommelier with a tastevin around his neck may have been replaced with a bearded hipster who only drinks “natural wine”, but wine aficionados have always loved being gatekeepers. Personally, I would rather hand off the keys. There is an enormous amount of arcane knowledge out there, some of which is useful, some of which is not. I’ll continue to use the blog and Wine Shop to illuminate wines and regions that deserve reflection. But there are no sacred cows at Tidewater. There are some wines and wine myths that simply have it coming. 

Transparency in Special Offers. I am very happy to pass on special offers or “deals” that actually represent value. This includes back vintages, truly rare wines, or special pricing on wines that were already excellent at their usual price. But I want to avoid the kind of email blasts that clog your inbox and, frankly, undermine the credibility of the wine seller. If every wine is a “must buy” then none of them are. An average quality wine at $50 is still an average wine at $35 and your dollars should be spent elsewhere. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and if you see the word “blockbuster” anywhere in the offer you should run away screaming. 

Lastly I would encourage all Tidewater members to reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. No one who starts a wine business hates talking about wine, and the only thing more useful to me than a glowing review of a wine is a thoughtful note about why one fell short of expectations. 



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