Is Wine One Letter Away From Disaster

Swine Wine I'm a curious guy. That's why I decided to do a quick google search today on "Wine and Swine Flu". Who knows, maybe something interesting will pop up. But right when I finished giving Google instructions on what to find for me the search sentence hit me in the face: "Wine and Swine Flu". Holy Cow. What if it there were no "S". What if it was the "Wine Flu"?

Pork Futures have dropped and there are reports of consumers pulling back considerably on their pork eating and purchases. Now, let's be clear, there is no danger of contracting Swine Flu from fixing up a batch of Baby Back Ribs or grilling up some Pork Tenderloin. Nevertheless, folks appear to be extra cautious, perhaps to the point of over reaction.

But it just goes to show how various things, even ludicrous ideas, can pound an entire industry. And it got me to thinking, what would bring the wine industry to its knees?

Certainly a virus or disease named the "Wine Flu" would cause sales to drop, whether or not the virus was aptly named. But unless a particularly virulent and smelly form of Cork Taint can infect a person and make them smell like trichloranisole, I think the industry is safe.

But if you want to worry about a real potential problem, go visit Highway 29 in Napa at noon in the summer. It's bumper to bumper. What happens when a pedestrian gets plowed over by someone driving to their 7th tasting room? What would be the political reaction? What would be the legal reaction. What restrictions would be put on tasting rooms? How would it effect travel to wine country?

Here's a good one. Remember the Tylenol Scare? What if it were the Wine Scare? What if some sick bastard who's dog died and wife had left him decided to do the syringe-through-the-cork in a few different cities in a few different stores? Im guessing a 65% drop in wine sales within 48 hours of it being reported.

What about scandal? What would be the consumer reaction to reports that a number of wineries that labeled their wines "Cabernet Sauvignon" were not in fact using that grape but a much something else? Or if it were reported that a number of wineries that labeled their wines "Napa Valley" or "Sonoma Coast" were actually using Fresno grapes. There would be a reaction by consumers. I guarantee it.

The point is fragility. Markets and economies and industries are fragile and can be disrupted easily and quickly. The saving grace is that while there are often long last repercussions to market disasters, markets, economies and industries are all capable of recovering quickly. Still, let's tale note that the "S" and the "W" are right next to each other on the keyboard.

13 Responses

  1. Ace - April 29, 2009

    I think Terry @ Mondosapore scooped you on that one. You looking for extra traffic or somethin’?

  2. Gretchen - April 29, 2009

    The market may be fragile but wine has been more important to healthy living than antibiotics as it was used to purify water since its invention(discovery?). So take THAT you swine!

  3. Dylan - April 29, 2009

    Everything is fragile: the bonds of relationships, job positions, confidence. It only takes a few misled actions or words to topple decades of trust and comfort. The real question is resilience, when these things happen, when life proves its fragility in ways you did not expect, how quickly can you come back?

  4. Samantha - April 29, 2009

    Okay, super cute BBQ pig, wine bottle cover. Where ever did you find that? Sky Mall perhaps? I’ve always seen overreaction as a side-effect of a nation of people that scan rather than read, you know, like read the headline but not the story. I mean look at what happened with the whole French wine boycott, people were not punishing the French, they had already sold their wines…you know, to American importers and retailers. Just seemed to me that people didnt think it all the way through, can’t really make an informed decision witout all the information right?
    I’ve had the wine “bug” for years and have been living a happy healthy life with very few outbreaks….

  5. Tish - April 29, 2009

    Very cute pig, indeed. I have a similar one like a football player (wearing #86 for either a good BDX vintage or Hines Ward). You are absolutely right about the real prospect for scandal having a major impact on the wine market. The catch, of course, is that you can’t predict it. And on the flipside, what would happen if Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore suddenly came out and said they drink only Paso Robles reds or Monterey Chardonnay. Again magjor impact, but again unpreictable.

  6. Vinogirl - April 30, 2009

    I think the CHP turn a blind eye to Hwy 29 revelers…and anyone can cheat on grape origin even if there are laws already in place to regulate such a thing (85% for AVA). I don’t think the industry is in jeopardy.

  7. Iris - April 30, 2009

    well, we’re not too far away from that in France, when you had press articles all around these last months about “even one glass of wine could give you a higher risk of cancer”…

  8. L.T. - April 30, 2009

    Well, Dominoes Pizza is going through scandal-control right now in reaction to that video w/ employees desecrating poor pizzas and sandwiches.
    I think today it’s much easier to respond to a scandal. Social media sites get the info to the public unbelievably fast. On the radio this morning I heard the the CDC has 6,000 twitter followers. That’s the CDC!! People need their 2009 H1H1 virus updates (let’s call it for what it is, right?).
    It must have been rather difficult for Austria’s wine industry to assure the public after the glycol scandal in the 80s. But they seem to be doing just fine today.

  9. L.T. - April 30, 2009

    That’s H1N1. There I go trying to be scientifically correct and I end up looking like a dum dum.

  10. Thomas - BWC - May 1, 2009

    Haha! Man you rock dude… You found a way to talk about Swine flu on your wine blog! That’s talented writing my friend and I totally admire that. I’ve been thinking about this damn flu for the last week or so and can’t seem to find a platform to express my thoughts about it because I just have a little wine blog and wine and swine don’t usually have to much in common. I would not put it past the media to hype up a “wine flu” and try to scare us into drinking more vodka or rye whisky! Thanks for the smiles mate, we need em’ in spades.

  11. Derrick Schneider - May 1, 2009

    Look up what happened to the Austrian wine industry in the mid-80s when the press revealed that antifreeze had been found in Austrian wines (particularly those from the Thermenregion, for you trivialists).
    The press was wrong (actually it was diethylene glycol, a relative of the chemical used to make antifreeze but actually less poisonous than, say, alcohol). But the Austrian wine industry collapsed virtually overnight.

  12. Emily - May 3, 2009

    It took a while, but the Austrian wine industry is certainly back on its feet.
    But please, oh please, don’t let there ever be a wine scare, wine flu, wine typhoon or anything of the like.

  13. Dino - May 11, 2009

    I wake up with the wine flu fairly often. Its usually gone by mid-afternoon, and Im ready to “catch it” again.

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