The American Wine Consumer Union

Wcu Over the course of the past month or so I've been involved in helping generate opposition to H.R 5034, a bill promoted by alcohol wholesalers that paves the way for states to pass discriminatory legislation that would harm wineries, retailers and consumer access to wine. My involvement has been on behalf of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, an organization of wine retailers, wine clubs and auction houses across the country that work to open more states for retailer to consumer shipping and for which I serve as executive director.

In the course of working to gather opposition to H.R. 5034 one thing has become remarkably clear:

American wine lovers are in desperate need of a "Consumer Union".

To date, more than 11,000 wine lovers from across the country have gravitated to the STOPH5034Facebook page where they have indicated their opposition to this bill. They have left 1000s of comments. They have read articles posted on the facebook page. They have urged their fellow wine loves to contact their representatives.

While this organizing effort is impressive and represents the first instance I'm aware of where wine lovers have used social media for political purposes, their efforts stop with gathering around a FACEBOOK page. But what if they belonged to a well run, benefits-based and politically active organization founded to represent the interests of wine consumers while also providing them with social and educational opportunities? What if this American Wine Consumer Union used their dues to support professional political representation in the form of lobbyists. What if this representative of the American Wine Consumer Union could go to Washington or Sacramento or Tallahassee or Springfield or Albany and say they represent 20,000 wine lovers? Or 50,000? Or More.

While "Free The Grapes" has done a remarkable job gathering wine lovers around letter writing campaigns to help open state for producer to consumer shipping legislation, the organization's fundamental mission is to open states to Producer to consumer shipping rights. My hope is that they continue to act in this manner, particularly in their work to oppose H.R. 5034, which has resulted in over 20,000 letters sent from their website to representatives in DC.

However, a more consumer-centric organization is needed I believe that can compliment and extend the work of Free the Grapes. A Wine Consumer Union is needed.

Wine consumers, for example, would surely and enthusiastically support efforts to open up more states to allow consumers to receive wine direct from wine shop, wine importers, auction houses and even support efforts to liberalize the way Internet-based marketing agents act on behalf of producers and importers and retailers to make wine more accessible on the Internet. They would do this because wine lovers know the key to their happiness is the ability to have access to all the wines in the American marketplace and the Internet is the path to that state of Happiness.

But I imagine that the Wine Consumer Union would provide more than just a voice for wine lovers where that voice has not existed before. I imagine a Wine Consumer Union would provide educational opportunities, social networking hubs, access to wine vacations, wine accessories, wine tastings, wine clubs and other wine-related items that have been specifically created for a union of wine lovers that might number in the many thousands.

Over the next few weeks I'll be exploring this issue. I'll be looking for the best model for the creation of an American Wine Consumer Union. And I'm wondering what others think of the idea of an active, vibrant, engaged union of wine lovers from across the country. I wonder if the time has come.

8 Responses

  1. tom merle - May 12, 2010

    You ought to consider changing the name. “Consumers Union” is about as apolitical an organization as one can imagine. Your group’s mission is 180 degrees apart from the original group’s neutral position.

  2. Brendan - May 12, 2010

    Agreed, the name stinks. I don’t join Unions nor support them. This is going to go no where. You need to bring into one group, Free the Grapes, Family Winemakers, SWRA, etc. Creating a splinter group only dilutes the message. Free the grapes is the platform that should be used to talk tot he consumer, but it is a pitiful design and needs a major rebrand and some leadership behind it.

  3. Tom Wark - May 12, 2010

    I’m not imagining a group that talks TO consumers. I’m imagining an organizations of consumers that talk.(Also, I think the FTG design is just fine!)

  4. Tom Wark - May 12, 2010


  5. CyrilPenn - May 12, 2010

    I think that’s what Wine America was trying to accomplish a couple years ago – hence the name change from American Vintners Association?

  6. Richard - May 12, 2010

    Hey Tom,
    Count me in, whatever you call it – and if you need some help, I have time on my hands. Maybe you should call it the “We Don’t Want You, and We’re Exclusive Wine Association.” That would be sure to have people clamoring to join…

  7. Brendan - May 14, 2010

    Not bashing the need, just the name. The groups out there like FTG, SWRA, Family Winemakers etc should all be pushing in the same direction. Each has their own agenda, insert video from Braveheart “unite the clans” and each is lame in their own rights individually, but what a POW they’d be together. FTG has only 9k on Facebook and they have been doing this for what a decade? These groups should have 500k email lists by now, their winery members should be doing weekly and monthly blasts. And no, FTG branding does suck, it’s dated and looks like it was done on the cheap. The horrible cliche purple makes me not want to help. The yellow does not make it nice either. Where are the wineries in support of this? How come name winemakers are not on the site using video to explain? The only other issue I have is that it does not tell you who runs or pays for it. It’s Benson Marketing but who pays the bills? I do want to know. Also, Tom, it would be great to know who your current clients are. Your site lists about 30 companies but several of them are defunct like Appellation America, Roshambo, Vinfolio, Wine X. Other than SWRA, who is paying you for your services? I think that’s a fair question as you blend between PR and the political side of things. Not making an accusation, I just want to know what hat you have on and why when I read you.

  8. tom merle - May 23, 2010

    Much better name, Tom . And I should mention your profile definitely does capture the description of a group that fills a need, particularly since it is as much about socializing as lobbying. I’m working on the bylaws now. 😉 As for a start of a local/national structure, could work (they were responsible for growing There are over 2,000 such groups spread around from 5,000 members to 50. . You can read about my version by clicking on my name.
    [Odd how the various references to wine orgs that fight on behalf of direct shipping and choice for the consumer never seem to mention Wine Institute…]

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