Wine Education as a Trailing Indicator

In the world of trends you’ve got "leading indicators" and "trailing indicators". The former tells where the trend is headed while the latter suggests where the trend has headed. Higher education is a trailing indicator.

A demonstration of this can be found in the news report that Appalachian State University in North Carolina has created a "Wine Studies" department.

Most states in the U.S. are "third tier" wine producers. That is, they are not understood to be sources of fine wine like first tier states such as California, Oregon and Washington. Yet it is states exactly like North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Michigan, among others, that have seen tremendous growth in the number of wineries that operate in these states. You know that this trend has been recognized when higher education institutions there begin supporting the local wine industries with curriculum.

The story about Appalachian State University is an interesting one on a couple levels. The first is an observation made by Norm Oches, the secretary and education
chair of the North Carolina Wine Growers Association. Oches says:

“Many people forget about the marketing part, but they should be
thinking about that the day they put the plant in the ground. As many industries move outside the United States for production, the wine industry will stay put."

I’ve never heard it put quite this way, but Mr. Oches is correct. Local wine industry’s simply can’t be "outsourced". It’s one of those great, bit "Duh" statements, I’ll grant, but it’s also the kind of statement that has political implications as outsourcing of American jobs is still a meaningful issue for many Americans. I’m thinking this observation might be something various local industries keep in mind as they fight battles against the forces that want to make it more difficult for small wineries to market their home-grown products. Rhetoric is important.

The other interesting statement in this article comes from Dr. Grant N. Holder, a chemistry professor at Appalachian State University who is working to get the program off the ground. In discussing the global nature of the wine industry he notes:

"the wine industry is very competitive, as every region of
the world produces wine with the exception of the Middle East."

He should know better. I wonder why he doesn’t.

2 Responses

  1. John - October 26, 2006

    As someone who has been following the North Carolina wine industry for a decade, I applaud the progress N.C. has achieved. In the land of Baptists and dry counties, it can be difficult to make people understand that wineries are a boon to the economy in so many ways. Ten years ago, there were maybe six wineries statewide. Now, it’s more than fifty, thanks in large part to the efforts of the state government to promote the industry.

  2. tom - October 26, 2006

    North Carolina appears to be like so many other states: they are making very good wine and these bottlings are being purchased by locals who like the wines and like the fact they are local. Nothing wrong with provincialism…it’s what allows industries to grow.

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