Things that would HURT the Wine Industry


Things That Could HURT the Wine Industry

Yes, it’s a macabre topic, particularly if you work in the wine industry. Yet, for some reason while enjoying a marinated skirt steak at Izzy’s in Marin the other day the topic popped into my head. Actually it was drunk driving disaster that popped into my head. Probably because of all the police cars that were surrounding a 2006 BMW right before I pulled into Izzy’s lot.

The guy was standing by the hood of his 740, hands behind his head and the cops didn’t look too concerned. The guy was probably too drunk to be dangerous.

In any case. It got me thinking about drunk wine tasters and that led into, other considerations. That led to a general consideration of the myriad ways the wine industry could be hurt.

1. Tasting Room Related Drunk Driving
Any one who works a tasting room in Napa, Sonoma or other wine regions has at least once contemplated the issues that would be raised by a wine taster leaving a tasting room drunk then mowing down someone on the road. The fact that I can’t remember an instance of this amazes me. However, this event could quite easily lead to far stricter tasting room regulations that would hamper the wine tasting experience and travel to wine country.

2. Restrictive Direct Shipping Regulations
Granholm V. Head didn’t get consumers out of the woods when it comes to gaining access to more wines. There has been a move afoot by various states to at once liberalize their direct shipping regulations, yet at the same throw up road blocks that make the effort worth it only for certain wineries willing to make the effort. If more restrictions on the size of the winery that can ship, expensive permit fees, excessive taxation and the like are passed in various states the wine industry will see a severe limitation on the extent to which they can utilize the power of direct sales.

3. Tainted Wine
This would be a disaster. Imagine the fall out from a consumer falling terribly ill or God forbid, dying as a result of tainted wine. I’ve never heard of this happening in America, but were it to occur and be highly publicized and if the cause of the poisonous wine were not known, you’d see wine sales across the nation dive.

4. Wine Rating/Media Fraud

Were any of the major wine media or wine writers to  be caught red handed taking favors for scores or  good reviews it would severely damage a source of information that to this point has been a strong consumer energizer and an effective way to keep winemakers on their toes. This too, however, is something I’ve never been aware of in the past  17 years.

5. Auction Fraud
Were it discovered the numerous bottles of different top CA and French wines were not the actual wine they were represented as you could see major havoc wreck the auction market in America and England. Auctions depend first and foremost on their credibility and expertise. Compromise this and you compromise the entire business. There have been accusations in the past as well as isolated examples. But as yet there has been no extraordinary scandal. Were it to occur, the general market place would observe but not be hurt by the havoc. It would likely be isolated to the auction world and specific brands and related brands.

6. Massive Sharpshooter Infestation
The California wine industry went through a significant round of replanting in the 1990s due to the phylloxera infestation. The upshot of that episode is vast. Many have argued that the entire character of CA wine was changed as new clones and rootstock replaced what have been mainstays in the state’s vineyards. In addition the replanting led to a re-alignment of the varietals planted in the State with Merlot getting a mighty bump in acreage under vine. Were there to be a massive infestation of Sharpshooters that killed off a large percentage of vines, the replanting would not have the same kind of impact on character. However, It would likely put many a vineyard and wineries out of business since they would not be able to afford the cost of replanting and the cost of being out of the market for a few vintages. Add to that the uncertainty if the infestation could not be guaranteed to miss the new plantings and the damage would be even worse.

Posted In: Wine Business


3 Responses

  1. Steve - June 4, 2007

    A little California-centric to include sharpshooters in this list, no?

  2. tom - June 4, 2007

    No..probably a LOT CA centric. However, I got to think other states wouldn’t be too happy to see these litter buggers arrive.

  3. Fredric Koeppel - June 6, 2007

    It’s interesting that the recorded instances of wine taint and wine fraud come from Europe. That doesn’t mean that such things don’t happen in the US, I guess, but you would think that we would hear about them if they did occur. Of course there have been rumors all over the place that wineries send different wines to WA and WS (bigger, plusher, fruit-forward wines that get high scores) than the wines that go to retail, but I don’t think anything has been proved. Maybe those rumors are just, um sour grapes. As for writers and reviewers “taking favors for scores or good reviews,” you have to remember that most writers depend on review samples from producers or importers for the wine they write about or review, just as book reviewers depend on copies of books from publishers or music writers depend on CDs from music companies. That’s not the same thing, of course, as taking a thousand bucks under the table or something like that.

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