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Recently I have been discussing why Washington Syrah does not sell particularly well and what value Syrah are out there. This was inspired by a post on Paul Gregutt’s blog last month. One of the hypotheses is that Washington Syrahs are relatively expensive and that there are not that many value offerings out there. I discussed value offerings in a previous post on a qualitative level. Here I look at how Washington Syrah compares at a more quantitative level. Specifically, I look at how Washington compares to a top Syrah producing region – Australia – in terms of price and rating.

For these purposes, I used the Wine Spectator database. This is not to imply that Wine Spectator is the be-all-end-all of wine reviews. Rather, I used the Spectator database as they are a major publication and have a large database that is easily searchable. Let me also say up front that I am comparing Washington, the state, to Australia, the country, so there are built in differences that affect the validity of the comparison.

In the Spectator database, I compared the score and price (average, median, minimum, maximum) for all Australian and Washington Syrah/Shiraz with a Tasting Date of the previous 12 months. This was done to look at the most recent information as well as to limit the overall dataset.

Overall, average and median scores for Australian and Washington Syrah were comparable. The median price was also comparable. The average price was higher for Australia Shiraz due to a number of expensive wines skewing the average.

Table 1

# of Wines Reviewed

Avg Score (Median)

Av Price

(Median)

Min Price

Max Price

Australia

239

89.94 (90)

$50.77 ($35)

$7

$625

Washington

103

90.20 (90)

$36.60 ($35)

$8

$75



Looking at a distribution of Australian and Washington wines by price and score also shows a number of Australian wines at higher price points (Note: For easier comparison, I have made the axes of the graphs the same. This eliminates one data point, an Australian Shiraz at $625).










Next up I looked at how the two areas compared in terms of overall production levels of the wines that were rated. Two of the main drivers of wine sales are high scores in trade publications and high availability/low cost/good value. In terms of high scores and price, based on the information above, Washington Syrah is doing quite well. Let’s take a look at the comparison by production.


Table 2

Total # wines

Australia (%)

Total # wines from WA (%)

# of Wines

Reviewed

239

103

> 1,000 cases

produced

122

(51%)

21

(20.4%)

> 5,000 cases

produced

71

(29.7%)

6

(5.8%)

> 10,000 cases

produced

33

(13.8%)

3

(2.9%)


Clearly there is a difference in the overall production levels between the two areas. Many of the Australian wines are being made at high production levels whereas the Washington wines are at small production levels. This matches the expectation – Australia is churning out a lot of wine whereas Washington has many small producers. I believe that this low production level is one of the reasons why Washington Syrah has a modest impact on the market outside of Washington.

As I stated previously, I believe as Washington Syrahs continue to rack up high scores and garner attention, the sales will follow. I also expect that more moderate to high production offerings will be created as more interest is generated. In short, I believe that Washington Syrah’s time in the sun is coming.

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