Chris’ note: U.S. markets are closed today for Memorial Day. So instead of our usual markets fare, you’ll hear from my friend Will Bonner.
Will is Legacy Research cofounder Bill Bonner’s eldest son. He recently founded a unique wine club. It gives folks access to wines from remote parts of the world… including his family’s ranch in northwestern Argentina.
You can find details on how to become a member here. From the feedback we got at the Legacy Investment Summit in Carlsbad, California, last October, Will’s hard-to-get wines are a hit. (There were long queues for samples…)
But whether or not you’re a member of his club, as he reveals below, there are some things you need to know (and avoid) about mass-produced wines. These should be giant red flags if you’re a regular wine drinker…
No, this isn’t going to be one of those essays about how experts can’t tell the difference between cheap wine and expensive wine in blind taste tests.
The consensus among true experts is that those blind taste tests don’t tell you much anyway.
Not that I’m an expert, mind you. I’m just a guy who fell in love with a dark, bold red wine found only in a remote mountain valley 5,000 miles away…
It was back in 2006, when I moved my family to Argentina.
There, they still enjoy an “Old World” tradition of wine… where old friends meet to reminisce over a bottle during long, late dinners… savoring each glass… without regard for labels or points…
One wine in particular took my breath away: a dark red wine known as “black wine,” grown at extreme altitudes (above 8,000 feet)…
I moved back to the U.S. in 2010. And recently, I began importing this wine. In the process, I learned some secrets about the wine industry that every wine lover should know…
…including what’s really in that bottle sitting on your counter right now…
…and what really makes a wine great.
First, there’s a lot of cheating that goes into that cheap wine from your local supermarket.
When the companies that make that wine can’t afford oak barrels… they use oak “flavoring” and other additives
When the wine isn’t dark enough… they add purple dye called “Mega Purple” (far more common than you think)
When the wine has any hint of sediment from the soil and air (which is what makes wines unique – the goût du terroir, as the French say)… they use “fining agents” like potassium ferrocyanide (yes, “-cyanide”)
When there’s a hint of bad weather, they harvest the grapes when they’re still green… and cover it up by adding more sugar!
You can see why the alcohol industry fights tooth and nail to keep ingredients off of labels, spending nearly $30 million for lobbying last year.
But it gets worse…
Did you know that a 2013 study of French wines found traces of pesticides in 90% of them?
And a lab test of 10 Californian wines found the weed-killer glyphosate in every single bottle.
They’ve stripped out the richness… the character of wine… everything that makes a bottle burst with life… and then added a lot of stuff that you don’t want!
Here’s what I loved about the wine I discovered in Argentina: It’s fed with natural snowmelt water… No dyes… No filters… PLUS it’s extremely high-altitude, so no need to drench the grapes in antifungals and pesticides (unlike in some very famous regions)!
An opaque, near-black red wine
But the true beauty of this wine is the remarkable flavor.
Here’s why it’s so good:
The sandy, dry soil is terrible for crops… but vines love it because of the excellent drainage
The vines are an old Malbec variety that disappeared from Europe about 150 years ago
The grapes get blasted with intense UV rays during the day (80% more intense than in Bordeaux) that create firm, round tannins (and antioxidants… up to 10 TIMES more than other wines!)
At night, the temperature drops 77 degrees, creating the grapes’ dark, inky color and forcing them to conserve nutrients
When I popped my first bottle of this bold wine… when hints of balsamic, leather, and camphor wood drifted across my palate…
…well, I was hooked.
Sadly, on the rare occasion you find these wines in America, they often go for over $500 a bottle! But here’s the work-around…
If you buy a bottle of wine for $100, about $20 actually goes to covering the winemaking itself.
The rest goes into what’s known as the American “three-tier system,” a product of old Prohibition-era laws that were never taken off the books:
Grape growers sell grapes to wineries.
Wineries sell wine to distributors, who sell it to retailers.
Retailers resell it to you at a big markup.
Every tier has to make a profit (and pay taxes)… And it’s even worse for imported wines because you add yet another tier to the process (plus foreign and import taxes!).
Here’s how I’m bypassing this whole costly system…
Recently, I teamed up with some friends (including two internationally renowned sommeliers) to fill a whole shipping container with Argentine wine directly from these high-altitude wineries… No middlemen… no inflated prices!
These remarkable wines, making their way over the Andes Mountains right now, will make up the first-ever quarterly collection of what’s called the Bonner Private Wine Partnership.
The Bonner Private Wine Partnership is a unique club. Every quarter, we will send our members a collection of great, but little-known, wines from a different part of the world.
It’s an experiment, but an exciting one. If we can enjoy these hard-to-get wines, without paying an arm and a leg, then I’ll be happy with it. And I think our members will be too. If you’d like to become a member, a few spots still remain. Simply click here to learn more.
Founder, Bonner Private Wine Partnership