Wine Revelations, Power Grabs, Numbers, Battles and Events
Upon reading Anthony Lane's remarkably thoughtful analysis of Terrence Malik's new film, The Tree of Life, in The New Yorker, it finally hit me why wine critics likely won't rise to the quality challenge laid down by critics surveying other pursuits such as film, literature, dance and music: As an object of analysis and thoughtful critique, a wine provides no interpretation of the human condition, giving its critics little to grasp on to in order to engage the sentiments, concerns and perspective of their readers.
THE SECRET POWER GRAB
Dr. Vino appears to have been alone within the wine writing community in noting the real threat to diversity and consumer access to wine in the New York wine marketplace as a result of a Primary Source law that has been introduced into the state legislature. If passed, New York retailers and restaurants would likely lose access to numerous hard to find wines, out-of-vintage wines, Bordeaux, Champagnes and other bottlings that are brought into the state via the legal "grey market". Instead, New York's wine marketplace, arguably the most diverse in the country, will be under the complete control of the wholesalers who are designated to sell specific wines. Prices will go up. The more unique wine lists at restaurants will become more ordinary. The supply of rare wines and out of vintage wines will shrink. Costs of these wines will increase. A coalition of retailers are working to fight this absurd power grab by New York wholesaler, for which little rational reasoning has been offered as a justification.
THE BLOGGING EVENT
The North American Wine Bloggers Conference, set for July 22-24 in Charlottesville, VA is filling up fast and will likely, once again, sell out. The number of rooms set aside for the conference at the Charlottesville Omni are nearly sold out. For a student of history such as myself, the placement of the conference in Charlottesville is particularly exciting given the opportunity to visit the historic grounds of the University of Virginia as well as dine one night at Jefferson's Monticello. In addition, we will get to hear from Keynote speakers Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov. Bloggers, industry folk, writers and wineries looking to attend should probably book NOW.
THE DIRECT EVENT
The upcoming Shipcompliant Annual User Conference and Direct Shipping Seminar has announced a few of its speakers for the June 28 event in Napa. It's pretty damned impressive and likely to be a must attend event for direct to consumer marketers. Coming to the event this year are Lori Ajax, District Administrator-Trade Enforcement Unit, California ABC; Suzanne DeGalan, Hinman & Carmichael; Marc Engel; Tracy Genesen, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis, Jerry Jolly, Pillsbury; John Hinman, Hinman & Carmichael. Lots of direct shipping changes this year and lots of new issues to explore. Time to Sign Up.
THE REMARKABLE NUMBER
It is being reported that direct sales of wine account for $3.4 billion in 2010. That's nearly 10% of the U.S. retail wine market. This according to the 2011 VinQuest U.S. Consumer Direct Wine Sales Report, released a couple days ago. "Direct Sales" means winery to consumer, be it in the tasting room, via phone, on-line, wine clubs, at events and mail order. According to the report "on-line sales" increased a whopping 38% over the previous year. Really?? Thirty-eight percent? To get the details and discover how this remarkable number was arrived at, you'll need $1595 to purchase the report from Vinteractive.
THE NEW BATTLE
The new and likely most robust area of contention in the world of wine regulation is most certainly "Self Distribution": The act of the producer of the beverage selling direct to restaurants and retailers, rather than goilng through distributors. Illinois is poised to see a new beer self distribution bill be signed that will allow only small brewers of beer to self distribute only half of their production. The rest must go through a licensed distributor or direct to the consumer. This IIllinois law was precipitated by Anheuser-Busch suing and winning a law suit that challenged Illinois' practice of allowing small brewers to self distribute, but not allowing larger ones, like A-B, to do so. Interestingly, this new law is being proclaimed a victory and protection for small brewers. But that's hogwash. It's a victory or wholesalers who have succesfully—again—convinced a state to protect them and guarantee their continued use by companies that don't need their services. There is no compelling reason why a state should force any producer of beer, wine or spirits to use a wholesaler if they feel they don't need to in order to get their wine to market without one. Zero reason. Producers are just as capable of filing proper tax returns and issue checks as wholesalers are. But this, Self Distribution, will indeed be the battle front for the wine, beer and spirits industry going forward.