If you are looking for the ideal gift to give the wine lover who buys in bulk in your life,
we can’t recommend de Négoce Wines any higher. The online platform was begun by négociant, or wine merchant, Cameron Huges.
If that name sounds familiar, it should if you have ever bought wine at Costco. Hughes made a fast name for himself in the early 2000s with his self-named wine label by buying wine from premium producers that the wineries couldn’t use or just didn’t make the cut. As crazy as it sounds, many wineries have a maximum quota they will produce, especially those that are highly allocated and wineries want to keep in demand. Or some wine or barrels that don’t produce the profile for the line they are creating. If there is extra due to a large harvest or the like, they will sell either the juice or finished wine to other producers for a fraction of the cost.
In his first career, Hughes quietly began working with top wineries, mostly in Northern California, buying high-quality but unwanted wine, repackaging it, and selling it under his brand, Cameron Hughes Wine. He bought the wine cheaply and passed the savings on to his customers, selling premium wine at highly discounted prices. The wines always with the caveat that he would not name where the wine came from beyond regional descriptions and production information.
The wines became a hit, including placement inside one of the largest wine retailers in the world, Costco. Hughes was one of the
However, as Hughes continued to grow, he could not keep up with demand, going into debt to cover production costs while looking for new avenues to source from, as the fruit he purchased one year may not be available the next. By 2015 the bank took over the business, with the bankruptcy court selling it to Vintage Wine Estates in 2017.
Hughes, however, wouldn’t let a little thing called bankruptcy stop him. With learned humility and in-depth knowledge of the business, he began de Négoce Wines a few years ago, following a similar business model, with a twist.
Today Hughes continues to work with premium wineries from around the world, this time selling the wine as futures. His model is similar to Bordeaux’s “vente en primeur” program. Bordeaux wines describe the process as selling a grand cru classé wine before the final wine is finished.
The purchase is based on vintage reports, vineyard analysis, and reputation, tieing the Chateau and the buyer together. The process provides funds to the winery, as the “futures” are sold up to two years before their release, and gives a discount to the merchant.
With de Négoce, Hughes finds the wine, then sends the details to his extensive email list. Buyers are able to buy the futures at a fraction of the cost, usually around the same price as the négociant may have paid. The program as a whole keeps everyone in business and everyone happy, especially the consumer. The only problem is that you must wait until the wine is finished to enjoy it, which may be several months to years.
To satisfy your wine craving now, de Négoce offers an extensive selection of finished wines on their website. The discounts are still significant, and the wines are indeed delicious. Trust is involved as you will never know exactly where the wine came from, i.e., the specific vineyard site or block number. However, Hughes provides extensive tasting notes and vintage descriptions with each wine, helping guide your palate the right way.
If you need a little motivation to help get you in the door, de Négoce offers sampler packs of 3, 6, or 12 wines, many of which include shipping. I tasted with Hughes a few months ago, trying selections that he said sold from their respective producers for four to five times the price he is selling the wines for (i.e., his price is around $20 for a $100 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon). And, though much prodding and pushing were done, Hughes stayed tight-lipped on where the wines came from.
We recently tried Lot 214 Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. It is a wine that supposedly would cost about $70; de Négoce sells it for $24. The wine was made using native yeast and whole cluster fermentation, giving luscious freshness to the well-rounded, juicy palate. With a medium body, the wine opened with ripe red berries and cherries, followed by toasted spice, cola, and black tea. The wine had a nice structure but was not overly complex, making it very enjoyable now.
From Chile’s high elevation, inland Chachapoal Valley, Lot 311 de Négoce Alto Totihue Syrah showcases the earthiness and freshness the region lying in the shadows of the Andes Mountains gives to wine. With an herbaceous base, more similar to a Rhone Valley than a Chilean wine, the selection is ideal with roasted meat and game, layering ripe blackberry, pepper, toasted spice, and woody herb.
All of the details for de Négoce and their wines are on the website. Hughes recommends allowing your wines to rest for a bit once you receive them to allow any bottle shock to dissipate, especially those purchased as a part of the futures program. The wines do sell out fast, so if you find one you like, buy it in bulk. #Cheers