Most Interesting Wine Stories of 2007

The 2007 calendar year is coming to an end an that prompts me to think harder about the past two months, to make assessments and to try to learn some lessons before we move on the perfectly lovely arbitrary notion of a "new year".

The wine new of 2007 when looked at retrospectively turns out to be truly educational as well as a signal of what to anticipate in the coming year and years. Here are my most interesting news stories of 2007

Ernest Gallo Dies

You don’t see a death like this every year. The man was 97 years old, the patriarch of the most important wine organization in the world and had led a company that literally spanned the entirety of the modern history and development of the modern American wine industry. I can get kind of morbid when these types of passings occur and start thinking who among us has the potential to illicit the kind of full on pause when they pass and the kind of jaw dropping awe when we are forced to consider the meaning of their lives to our industry. I can think of only one living person in the American wine industry who possessed similar industry personification potential.

The Case of Wine & Family and Books
The reception that Julia Flynn Siler’s "House of Mondavi" received did not totally surprise me. W
hat surprised me was that it was published to begin with and received such wide distribution. Though probably  a case of my being blinded by being inside the forest rather than in the clearing, I’m still stunned at how well this book on the travails and successes of the Robert Mondavi Winery did. Most books sell few copies. This book sold MANY copies. It’s a testament to Flynn Siler and her publisher. But it should also be message: the goings on in the wine business ARE interesting to those outside it. I see the success of "The House of Mondavi" similar to the success of Sideways: There is ample room to exploit the goings on of the wine business that will be of great interest to the general, beer and coke drinking society.

$162 Billion and Counting

That was the amount that MKF Research determined the American Wine Industry contributes to the economy. This is a big Frigg’n number and was not lost on policy makers in Washington when it was unveiled there in January. It’s hard not to take seriously an industry that generates this kind of contribution to the economy. When you combine this revelation with the related revelation that America will soon become the largest wine drinking country in the world and all sorts of ideas start swirling in your head from the change that has overcome our culture to the willingness of non-traditional wine producing states to support their developing industries to the potential to use the American wine market to explore new ways to promote and market wine.

Gary VaynerchukGary
It’s very difficult to predict the course any public personality will take in the future, particularly Gary’s. But it’s important to note things about Gary’s success with and and as a result of WineLibraryTV: 1) It has been a very long time since a true "personality" has emerged from the American Wine Industry that has the potential to transcend the cynical gaze of the industry itself and appeal to an audience of "regular people". Gary is doing that. 2) Gary emerged from an online presence. I think he’ll eventually shed his association with the world of wine online. But the fact that he burst on to the scene in the form of ones and zeros is significant to a lot of people and should be significant to a lot more people.


That was the message that emerged from the Illinois Legislature during the middle of the year as lawmakers their bent to the will of wholesalers and striped Illinois consumers of the right to purchase wine from out-of-state wine merchants. The push to keep wine from being shipped from out-of-state retailers to Illinois consumers was a truly cynical effort on the part of nearly every organization involved. The same effort was made in Oregon, where it failed. And it was the same effort that succeeded earlier in places like California, New York, Michigan and Texas, all states where lawsuits are in place opposing this kind of anti-consumer and unconstitutional lawmaking. The successful effort in Illinois to screw consumers raises a very fundamental question: What will it take to demonstrate conclusively that state-mandated monopolies that deliver unchecked power to wholesalers are not just wrong, but almost always result in immoral results?

No More Wine XWinex
I’m not sure how many people remember the brief impact the story of Wine X Magazine closing d
own made. But I do. I think I remember more vividly because I know the publisher pretty well, I understood his vision for the magazine, I recall the rancid reaction from the wine industry when it first emerged with its truncated and off the cuff reviews. Wine X never became a big name publication. It never competed with the Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, etc. But it did change the way many people think AND write about wine. Darryl Robert’s short, sometimes hilarious wine reviews that often used pop culture references or compared wines with body parts, music and celebrities is something you see in lots of places now. It doesn’t matter if you like this practice. It only matters that you recall what magazine opened the door to allow it to become popular.

Turmoil Caused By Costco

When Costco convinced a Federal Judge in Washington State that it was unconstitutional for a state to allow its own wineries to sell direct to retailers and restaurants but force out-of-state wineries to use wholesalers to get their wines to market all hell broke loose. In 2007 we began to see the results of this. Naturally, America’s wholesalers hate this development. It opens doors behind which they know lies the the shredded remains of their faux necessity. Nevertheless, the ruling changed a lot of things for a lot of people. In Virginia, a serious winemaking state, wholesalers convinced legislators to take away their wineries right to sell direct to retailers. In Illinois the legislature curtailed local wineries’ ability to use "self distribution" to their hearts content and even stripped the larger wineries of their right to do any self distribution. It’s important to note that these negative reactions to the ruling were all taken for the specific reason of protecting wine wholesalers from protection. But it’s more important to note that the ruling will and is leading to some of the most interesting innovations that will have a huge impact on the American wine industry.

There were other important stories in 2007. There may be more to come. But these are the ones that really made me stop, sit up and think.

11 Responses

  1. razmaspaz - December 7, 2007

    $162 billion. That does seem like a lot. Thats $500/person. Reflecting on this, I think I spent close to as much on wine in the past 12 months as I have on car payments.

  2. Dan Cochran - December 7, 2007

    I think your “Screw’em” segment was the wine story of the year. It shows that not only do the distributors have enormous resources to thwart the public will, but the legislators are willing to so easily give away their souls for campaign funds.

  3. Golly - December 7, 2007

    I simply don’t understand why Americans put up with legalised racketeering in alcohol. Wine drinkers need to make their voice heard in the ‘land of the free’, it’s unconstitutional and it’s anti-competitive but sadly, in a country where people tried to re-write the bible to take out references to alcohol, it isn’t un-American.

  4. Paul Mabray - December 7, 2007

    Don’t forget Tom Wark leading the American Wine Blog Awards!!!! You deserve kudos for that my brother.
    Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution
    —Paul Mabray – CEO

  5. Ed C. - December 7, 2007

    What about innovative online retailers like Wine Spies, WineQ or Wine Library? These sites are leading wine consumers in new, interesting and effective directions by putting a new face and a new spin on wine-selling.

  6. Tom Wark - December 7, 2007

    I agree. These are VERY interesting and innovative developments. Personally I think they will pan out. However, for me it’s a wait and see how they pan out and into what they pan into that is right now most interesting.

  7. Douglas - December 7, 2007

    There are allegedly two movies in the works about the 1976 French tasting. Do you think House of Mondavi will be made into a movie?

  8. Tom Wark - December 7, 2007

    I thought about that very question today when I was writing this post. I spoke with the author of the Mondavi book not too long ago, but failed to ask this question.
    And it’s not allegedly. There will be two movies made about the 1976 Paris Tasting.

  9. Tish - December 8, 2007

    Nice list, Tom. I would add the rapid “greening” of the wine industry. From vineyard through winery and marketing/packaging right to the point of sale. The wine industry has been very self-conscious and proactive, and it should resonate well with consumers going forward.

  10. Marco - December 9, 2007

    The three tier system is especially vulnerable now with the Euro so strong. As I’m sure you know, Pope Parker listed its demise as one of his big predictions.

  11. dfredman - December 11, 2007

    I think that Gary Vaynerchuk and the whole Wine Library TV phenomenon, if not the wine story of the year is at least the one occurrence of 2007 that is likely to have the greatest affect on shaping the wine interest of the next generation of winegeeks (maybe ever more so than the proliferation of wine blogging, but we’ll see).
    As for “House of Mondavi” being made into a film, didn’t Roger Corman already touch on much of that plotline back in 1960 a call it “The Fall of the House of Usher”? 🙂

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