“Big Wine” really is BIG

Hoyt Hill, wine writer for the The City Paper, reports the following information:

–Thirty percent of the wine sold in the United States is distributed by one wholesaler, Southern Wine and Spirits, and, in the states where Southern Wine and Spirits actually does business, they distribute more than 70 percent of the wine sold?

–Approximately 80 percent of the wine produced in Australia is made by three companies? Approximately 70 percent of the wine produced in California is made by five companies? And that Foster’s is one of those three Australian companies and one of those five California companies?

–One man, Michel Rolland, is the winemaker at more than 200 wineries?

Hill has some very good suggestions for how consumers can address this "Big Wine Biz" trend.

However, It’s important to point out that given the choice available on the Internet as well as in metropolitan areas, the wine drinker can easily indulge in artisan wines, rather than wines pumped out by the big boys and girls. And they should. I’m not a big business foe. Rather, I find it far more interesting, more educational ad more fun to drink from the hose of individuality than the well of homogeneity.

Posted In: Wine Business


6 Responses

  1. maggie - September 29, 2005

    Well, I am a big business foe when it comes to food…
    And those stats are remarkable. Remarkably disturbing. And you mention the biggest offenders in your post. Southern Wine and Spirits is a demonic company that is hugely responsible for pushing the McDonaldization of wine on the low end. Michel Rolland, micro-oxygenator extraordinaire, is responsible for the McDonaldization on the high end. And when I say McDonaldization, I mean standardization of product, which is desired when dealing with widgets, not so much when talking of food.

  2. huge - September 29, 2005

    “Southern Wine and Spirits is a demonic company that is hugely responsible for pushing the McDonaldization of wine on the low end. ”
    uhhh…..Maggie, what evidence would you have to support this claim? Why is SWS any more responsible than the producers or consumers of wine on the low end? Further, at what point in time was low-end wine not homogenized!?!? Ever tasted vin du table from any other country? Pretty standard stuff really….

  3. Jimmy Mancbach - October 2, 2005

    It is with great hesitation that I post this comment, as I am a 17 year veteran of SWS in Florida. I realize I am openning myself to various complaits wether they be justified or not. Be advised that if we did not represent the “Mc Donalds” of wines another distributor would. It is a symptom of the market, not the distributor. We represent more of them because we are aggresive and not satisfied to sit back and ” get our fair share” We represent these brands as long as we sell them, this is after all a business.
    That being said, we do sell more than just the low end. My card says I am the Director of Fine Wine, in reality I am the in house wine geek. In Florida I created a divison called GEMS which I market statewide to the top restaurants and resorts. I select every brand in trhe portfolio and I am ultimately responsible for selling them. I work with many terrific wine profesionals who could hold there own with any other wine professional in the country.
    The GEMS portfolio represents true Artisan wineries, including ABC, Red Car, Qupe, Kistler, Tandem, Scherrer, Mueller, Schrader, Schweiger, Caldwell, Vineyard 29, Soter, Gypsy Dancer, Daedalus, Scott Paul, Francis Tannahill, Cloud View, Copain, Roessler, Origin Napa, Kamen, Blue Rock, Chiarello Family, Andrew Geoffrey, Melka, Nicholson Ranch, Rivers-Marie, Tor and many more. Hardly McDonald’s wines.
    Just because we are bigger do not assume we are bad, and do not assume we are solely responsible for the Mc Donaldization of the marketplace. If everyone where into artisan wines there would be less for all of us to drink. The vast majority of Americans are very happy with $5-$10 wines. All SWS does is make wine available to the marketplace, someone else produces it.

  4. Uncorked in Ohio - October 2, 2005

    I just love how “Big Wine” runs from that image every chance it gets. A wine distributor’s delivery truck here in Dayton, Ohio (and elsewhere, I’m sure) has a “Taste our Small Winery Tradition” slogan touting Woodbridge by Mondavi. Excuse me?
    Woodbridge’s own web site boasts the capacity to crush 3,600 TONS of grapes per day, to bottle 42,000 cases a day, and to store 54.2 million gallons of wine.
    “Small Winery Tradition” indeed.

  5. Tish - October 2, 2005

    Let’s not forget that the “big” wine firms in the world today seem to be doing a pretty good job of squeezing out some dandy “small” wines, in large part because of profit from the high-volume wines. Examples: Beringer (that White Zin helps buy barrels for Private Reserve); Mouton-Cadet, coexisting nicely with the high-end Baron Philippe portfolio; and of course the old Mondavi-Woodbridge dynamic duo. And isn’t it heartening to see how the Benziger family has grown into a buff, AVA-conscious winery, out of the legacy of bulky Glen Ellen.
    If anything, I think the explosion of brands in recent years suggests that wine is feeling more boutique-y than ever. Maybe it’s very different in the midwest, where distribution is weighted toward the big dudes, but on the coasts, nobody is stopping anyone from enjoying the best selection of small-scale wines ever.

  6. huge - October 3, 2005

    While your comments are most erudite, you are missing the point. In order to appear fully knowledgeable about wine, one must routinely bash the big wineries because they make inferior wine since they make it in large quantities (see: Spectator, Wine – any issue (with the exception for WS’s advertisers, of course)).
    As I’ve said many times, I’ve had some truly horrid wines from some small, boutique-y wineries. People seem to gloss over those memories pretty easily for some reason….

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