A Wine Idea That’s Time Has Come

Awcc Every big thing starts small.

Every success is an idea first.

The future is built on the present

I've mentioned it before and alluded to it later: If American wine consumers are going to be heard and if their interests are to be taken seriously, they must speak up. And they need to speak up with one voice. The idea is "The American Wine Consumer Coalition".

• When state legislators consider laws concerning consumer access to wine, they don't consult consumers.

• When our representatives consider laws affecting consumer access to wine, they consult industry and lobbyists, but not wine consumers (no representatives of consumers were asked to give testimony at the recent hearings on HR 5034)

• When alcohol regulators in the 50 states and Washington consider changes to the regulations governing how you get, keep, sell and drink wine, they don't consult consumers.

Why not? Because wine consumers rarely, if ever, talk with one voice. They rarely give lawmakers and regulators a voice to listen to. Wine consumers should offer up that voice.

The key to wine consumers rights is Access. Access to the wines consumers want is the bedrock desire of wine lovers. Hundreds of thousands of wine are available in the United States. Wines from around the world and around the country are now available in numbers previously unimagined. And wine lovers are the reason they are being produced. American wine consumers have demonstrated they want something interesting, something new, something that showcases "place", something that suits different wine lifestyles. Something that inspires us.

Yet, only a tiny percentage of these wines from around the world and around the country are available in any given state and state laws and regulations often conspire to keep these wines from being delivered to you. Some states make it illegal for wine consumers to buy any wines other than those already in the state by making illegal to purchase wines from out of state wineries and/or retailers. Some, while allowing such shipments from out-of-state wineries or retailers, place restrictions on how much wine can be shipped or when the wine can be shipped or place barriers between the consumer and the source of shipment before the wines can be shipped.

Would these barriers and restrictions be in place today if a robust and active coalition of wine consumers had lifted up their voice years ago? I don't think so.

Better late than never.

The American Wine Consumer Coalition will begin ln Facebook where the plan is to gather 1000s of supporters. If this can be accomplished, if 1000s of wine consumers decide to join this movement, then there will come a time when the coalition on Facebook becomes something more. But what?

I imagine an AWCC could…

-provide wine-related benefits to consumers such as discounts on wine accessories, books, travel, services and wine.

-produce wine events across the country for members

-produce significant communication vehicles that feed the fascination we have with wine

-create a voice in the halls of government that represents real wine consumer and their interests.

This might be a slow process. Or if wine lovers and consumers vigorously support and promote the notion of consumer coalition, things might go quickly. We can't tell. But what we do know is that unless a movement is begun, nothing will happen.

So…..If you want to see the American Wine Consumer Coalition grow

….if you want a voice for the American wine consumer

….If you want to be a part of something small, that could grow into something significant

1. Go to the American Wine Consumer Coalition Facebook page

2. Join the page.

3. Participate in the discussion

4. Spread the word about the American Wine Consumer Coalition

5. Send my your ideas on how the AWCC can become significant and relevant

6. Send me your ideas on how to grow the organization

7. Let me know if you want to become a Coalition Leader to become even more active in the growth and direction of the American Wine Consumer Coalition.

It's clear such a wine consumer coalition is needed. It's clear that wine consumers need a voice. It's clear a coalition of wine consumers can make needed changes to the way wine is accessed. What's not clear is whether consumers are ready to join such a movement. Let's find out.

11 Responses

  1. Adam Japko - October 5, 2010

    Tom, totally applaud the effort and concept. In so many other industries, it is the suppliers and large consumer media that take the good fight to Capitol Hill. More to gain, more to lose, more clout. Does a tight coalition of 30 influential producers and media players, who represent consumer freedom first and big wine business second, exist? Is it naive to think that could be effective in the US wine industry?

  2. Hope - October 5, 2010

    Amen Tom, we all need to realize that the voice of the consumer can be strong and can make changes with a little work and organization…It has been done before and I personally would love to see it done again!

  3. Macdaddy_m - October 5, 2010

    I’m climbing up on my box and I don’t think I’ll lose my voice from shouting this out loud for a while to come.
    We will be happy to throw the support of both our platforms (www.enobytes.com and WineBytes at http://www.oregonlive.com) behind this and get this one to rumble loud and clear. Let’s make the ground swell! The timing is definitely right on, as I had a distributor tell me this week; What a pain it is to deal with consumers. It really made me think, I wonder where he thinks all the wine his company delivers to shops and restaurants actually goes? They may as disconnected from reality as some of those folks we have in D.C.

  4. Tim - October 5, 2010

    What a great idea, wish I had thought of it. Oh yeah, I mentioned this idea last week on your blog! It’s time we had a consumer’s perspective on things make itself heard in Washington! Count me in…

  5. Erika Szymanski - October 5, 2010

    My intention is not to be a naysayer here — I, too, think this is a great idea — but I disagree that consumers have no say in wine-related legislation. The process seems to work much the same as most other sorts of legislation: someone in government or industry (or, rarely, the populus populi) foots a proposal, debate ensues, caring plebes talk and petition and vote, and either a vote determines a decision or legislators take all of the above into more or less account and legislate something. All of us in Washington have been observing and unquestionably participating in this process over the past few months leading up to this November. How can you say that the Washington wine consumer has been silent?
    That said, any effort to strengthen the voice of the consumer and, in particular, to focus and make more efficient the voices of like-minded libation-lovers, is all to the good. Thank you, Tom.

  6. Karin - October 6, 2010

    As a wine consumer living in NY state, I do my part to support the local Finger Lakes wineries… and believe me, I love wine. A friend of mine purchased some land a few years ago, cleared it, and planted grape vines. She has started a winery, and bottled her first batches this year (and it is rather good). I believe that consumers all over this country should have the opportunity to taste her wines, and she should have the ability to prosper through interstate commerce. I think that we are blessed having such a great climate for grapes here in America, and we should be proud of our vineyards, great or small, old and new. Consumers should definitely support their local economy as well as the economy of their fellow states, and be allowed to purchase all of the fantastic wines that this country has to offer!

  7. Thomas Wall - October 9, 2010

    I would like to join, but I got so tired of reading articles about how to make settings to Facebook to protect my privacy that I closed my Facebook account. Is there any other way to join?

  8. Donald Harper - October 24, 2010

    Good question Thomas. I closed my FB account too to resist submission to a social media brand. I will join if the transaction involves only me and the WCC.

  9. Clark Smith - October 24, 2010

    Bravo, Tom. I have been trying to make something like this work from the small winery side, but those folks are so beleaguered that it’s hard to get enough of a listening to properly fund such an initiative. The current distribution is so skewed to corporate that the small guys don’t stand a chance.
    When I was retailing in the ‘70’s, 1,000 domestic products was all there were, and our store carried them all – 100% of the diversity. Today that’s less that 2% of what’s available. Paradoxically, more choices has led to less diversity on the shelf, because the Safeway buyer can pick and choose the products that conform – the expected chardonnay, the expected Merlot, and so forth, so the interesting wines get left out, from Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnays to Iowa Marechal Foches.
    There are about 80,000 wines available in North America. Of these, perhaps 5,000 are in the three tier system at all, and only a thousand get any serious play, the rest being tied up by large distributors who never sell them.
    Direct shipping today is a farce. To direct distribute to all 50 States requires about $20,000 per year in license fees plus staff to fill out 50 monthly forms and 50 sales tax forms (mostly with zeros) and all the renewal forms, so figure another $50,000 in admin labor. Theis doesn’t count social media and other marketing. Then there are the 7,000 compliance checks your software needs to perform on every sale.
    If that $70,000 is to constitute 10% of gross revenues, we’re talking $700,000 in direct sales. No small winery can do that.
    AppellationAmerica.com has done a better job than anyone to tell the stories of the 98% of wineries on the D list. It’s on life support because without distribution reform, those stories aren’t useful. We’re still alive over here, and eager to hear how we can support your reform.

  10. Grammar Gimp - October 24, 2010

    A wine idea WHOSE time has come. “That” makes a fine relative pronoun, but it doesn’t have a possessive form. If the “time that has come” belongs to “a wine idea,” change “that” to the possessive of “who,” which is “whose.”

  11. wine bottle gift bags - February 14, 2011

    How can i question it, while it is stating the real truth.

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