The Inner Workings of Our Wine Allocation
Wine is simply something special – and we are not just saying this as wine lovers. When it comes to the best wines, specifically those suitable for investment and production, supply can rarely be increased to meet the demand. Every seasoned wine-lover knows how hard it can be to get your hands on a coveted bottle of your favorite wine! Small-lot wineries in particular often only produce select quantities of their bottles due to limited fruit. While this certainly creates a scarcity factor, it can make for some fierce competition to secure a limited release. This is where wine allocations come in.
The World of Wine Allocations
Unlike a wine club, which offers members a recurring shipment throughout the year, a wine allocation is the amount of wine a buyer is able to purchase from a winery’s current selection. Before being sold to the general public, allocation members are first invited to purchase a set number of bottles. The best, most exclusive wines are often available only on allocation.
Wine allocations have their roots in the French tradition of ‘En Primeur.’ With evidence of En Primeur-like wine-buying systems dating back thousands of years, En Primeur or ‘wine futures’ is a widely-established feature of France’s wine landscape. The chateaux that take part offer retail and private customers the opportunity to invest in a vintage before the wine is bottled, thus giving guaranteed access to limited vintages and a timely investment.
Based on this concept, wine allocations are typically offered by fine wine producers to ensure that limited-availability wines are made accessible to the most loyal supporters. With Napa Valley home to one of the highest concentrations of cult wines in the world, it’s not surprising that the allocation model is particularly popular amongst boutique wineries.
How Seven Apart’s Wine Allocation Works
At Seven Apart, our strict standards for only working with top-quality fruit means our wines are produced in limited quantities. As a result, we have adopted an allocation model to, quite literally, allocate bottles to our members. Our Estate Manager Yannick Girardo shares his insight into how exactly wine allocations works:
“Our starting point is to be as fair as possible. When we have really limited availability, we consider a few things: firstly, the customer’s past purchases – we prioritize customers who have supported us in previous vintages. We also consider how loyal customers are to Seven Apart, including visitations and engaging with our offers throughout the year. In doing so, we are able to build a more personalized relationship with the people who love our wine the most.”
Ultimately, we want to spread our high-demand wines as widely as we can. We absolutely recognize customers’ frustrations when it comes to allocations, but being part of the process is also part of the excitement of collecting and the allure of the wine world.
Keep in mind that being on our allocation list is not always a guarantee that all wine will be made available to you. While, of course, there is no obligation to keep purchasing, as our wines are produced in such small quantities, priority is afforded to members who are consistent throughout the years.
“Should you not want to acquire your allocation, that’s completely understandable. However, as someone else might really want access to our wine, by forgoing your allocation, you hand over your access to this wine to the next person in line. It’s a fair system when quantity is scarce. That’s why the best way to secure your allocation is to remain committed and acquire it upon each release,” adds Yannick.
A Close-Knit Cabernet Community
The ultimate goal of our Seven Apart allocation is to cultivate a close-knit community of wine lovers to the winemaking team and wine they trust. Wineries rely on the support of their members. In return, members retain premium access to exceptional wine that is not available in retail.
“It’s definitely a two-way street,” Yannick notes. “When people are committed to our wine, we want to make sure they have as much unfettered access as possible.”
The wines at Seven Apart are released seasonally and as they reach optimal maturation. Typically, Shale is released in February, Basalt in May, Expedition in September, and Summit in November. However, the upcoming release schedule for 2023 will be much quieter.
Two years ago, on September 27, 2020, a wildfire broke out from an undetermined cause in Northern California and continued its path of devastation for 23 days. Titled the ‘Glass Fire’ due to its origin near Glass Mountain Road in Napa County, the wildfire fell in the middle of the harvest season. Here at Seven Apart, we were fortunate to have sustained no physical damage to our winery. However, our prized Stags Ridge Vineyard certainly felt the impact of smoke taint, rendering the fruit unusable to create our Shale, Basalt, and Summit 2020 vintage. You can read more about the impact of the wildfires on our harvest in this journal here.
While these wines were available in seasonal cycles throughout previous years, their quantity is severely limited after the Glass Fires. We are hopeful that this will not be the case for long, with the 2022 harvest looking promising.
The good news is that one very special wine could be made in 2020, using exceptional fruit from our unharmed Base Camp vineyard: Expedition. This September, the 2020 Expedition is being released to our allocation members.
Traditionally, Expedition is a Cabernet Sauvignon blended from grapes harvested from both our Base Camp and Stags Ridge vineyards. As the fruit from Stags Ridge was rendered unusable, this means that only the fruit from Base Camp could be used – halving the quantity of wine produced.
“We were only able to produce around 825 cases of the Expedition vintage. That’s 50% less than what we’ve done in previous years”, confirms Yannick. “This is to ensure that only the finest grapes are used while minimizing the impact on the land itself that has already seen so much turbulence.”
Our 2020 Expedition was released on the 20 September 2022. With the 2019 Expedition receiving 98+ points from the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker, we have high hopes that the 2020 vintage will once again show Napa at its peak.