de Négoce OG N. 77 Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2018

Pale gold color; yellow apple, honeysuckle, lemon, pear on the nose; yellow apple, white peach, citrus, lemon on the palate.

de Négoce OG N. 77 Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2018

Dry; smooth with background of tartness. Relaxed acidity. Some oak and butter, but nothing to complain about. Light body. Tastes more like a white Burgundy than a California chardonnay, which you would expect from a Willamette Valley effort. 13.4% ABV

I cannot give details about vineyard, winemaking, acidity pH, and more because of the nature of this wine operation. As the name implies, de Négoce is a négociant operation. In this case, it means de Négoce (French for “of trade”) makes no wine but puts their label on a bottle and sells it.

Cameron Hughes—de Négoce

Cameron Hughes, a veteran négociant, only sells directly to the consumer through his Phoenix Wine Company. His system works like this:

• You join his “Wine Futures List” to be notified of new releases of special wines Hughes finds.

• Instead of bottling and cellaring wines, Hughes sells the wine, then bottles it and ships it to you.

• You cellar the wine for a couple of months—I have done so with the selections he sent me—to allow the bottle to recover from “bottle shock” and come around to present its best self. This is a task typically done by the winery.

The payoff: Hughes suggests you will get quality wine at steeply reduced prices. Hughes claims, for instance, this effort from the making winery sells for $45. You can get it for $16.

There are cautionary details to keep in mind:

• You are required to buy in six or 12 bottle lots.

• You are, in most cases, buying wine and then waiting for delivery. Hughes buys some wines in barrel and then bottles. He acquires others that are offered as they come off the bottling line. Barreled wines take 6-12 weeks to ship. Bottled wines usually take 3-6 weeks to ship.

• Since all the wines are recently bottled, they need time to rest after you get them. Bold, tannic cabs need 3-8 months. Medium-bodied reds like pinot noir and zinfandel take 2-3 months. Medium-to-full bodied whites need at least two months and add complexity and bouquet when you wait six months. Light-body whites can be ready in 6-8 weeks, but they, too, benefit with more patience.

• The source winery is always anonymous, so information about the wine is very limited.

Here is how the company presents its case: “Ready for a secret? Wine does not cost a lot to make, it costs a lot to sell.  Since the end of Prohibition, layer-upon-layer of government-mandated middlemen and cumbersome state-by-state distribution policies have created the world’s most inefficient wine market. Only in the USA does a wine that costs $10 to produce end up costing you $50.

“Enter de Négoce. With 20+ years of global wine sourcing experience, we have become the #1 direct-to-consumer wine brand in the country in just one year of business. How? We source excess exceptional wine from icon and boutique wineries and sell it directly to you at incredible prices. Simple. Here is our promise: buy direct from de Négoce, cut out the middlemen, and you will save 60-80% off traditional retail prices. We guarantee every wine we sell so you can buy with confidence.”

This is not for everybody. You will get high quality wines, but you have to take on several of the responsibilities of the winery and the middlemen. The concept, however, is intriguing for the right person.

de Négoce OG N. 77 Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2018 is a quality Oregon chardonnay marketed in a break-out way. Good food wine, easily can be enjoyed all by itself. Pair with poultry; pork; rich fish; vegetarian fare. $16 (up to $45 if purchased with maker’s label).

de Négoce website