Does Wine Need A Healthcare Forum?
As I write this, President Obama is holding court at Blair House and discussing with members of congress the issue of healthcare. It's a contentious issue that will define the President's first term and that has highlighted many of the philosophical divides inside congress and among the American people.
While I'm not convinced the Healthcare Summit will do anything more than provide a televised forum for staring into the gulf that is political partisanship, it an interesting discussion and helps clarify for America why it's unlikely the the healthcare funding crisis will be solved.
Still, as as watch and listen to the debate, I can't help but wish that a similar forum could be provided to examine many of the issues in the wine industry that divide its members. What could and needs to be examined at the Wine Industry Forum?
1. The Meaning of "Old Vine"
Until this phrase is given meaning that all can either agree on or at least adopt for labeling purposes, it will remain truly meaningless and abused. The fact is, if you planted vanes in 1985, you can legitimately and legally label the wine made from these vines "Old Vine".
2. The Value of Federally Approved American Viticultural Areas
Is there anything that consumers can know about a wine that carries the "Central Coast", "Sonoma Coast", "Russian River Valley", "Sierra Foothills or any other AVA appellation on the label? I'm certainly not convinced anything of substance can be said about the character of a wine that carries these or any other appellation given how AVAs are created. A discussion of their value and how to make them more meaningful would be valuable.
3. The Legally-Enforced Use of a Middle Man
In nearly every state it is is mandated that producers sell to middle men (wholesalers), not to retailers or restaurants, whether the producers wants or needs to. This situation ensures that wholesalers control the composition of products that come to market, not the producers of the products and the real customers, the consumer. It also ensures that wholesalers possess vast power over retailers, restaurants, producers and consumers. The value of this state-mandated "three tier system" is debatable at best. It should be debated.
4. Alcohol Taxes
Does the wine industry really want to oppose "nickel-a-drink" type taxes on its product while all the time asking that the streets and roads be maintained for the delivery of their wine? Do they want to oppose increased taxes on wine when they demand that huge bureaucracies be put in place to regulate their industry? More often than not taxes on the sale of alcohol are opposed by members of the wine industry. A good debate on how taxes on alcohol ought to be applied should ensue.
I love the idea of an ongoing wine industry forum that has as its ongoing mission the debate and discussion of issues effecting the wine and hospitality industry. I love the idea of a foundation or association or group that sponsors these debates among industry members. I love the idea of an ongoing forum that has monthly debates that are streamed live onto the web and that bring to the table earnest, educated, invested and serious members of the industry representing the various sides of an issue.
Would these debates solve any of the issues listed above or any of the many issues that are not listed above? Would they be able to identify consensus among the different sides of the debate? Would they result in plans for moving forward to implement proposals. I think so.