Confusion Breeds Confused…But Must It?

con“We plant vines. We build wineries. We build brands. We hire crews to pick grapes. We we hire winemakers and cellar assistants to make wine. We open tasting rooms and build mailing lists. We staff our tasting rooms. But we are not going to take the final step to hire someone or some service to fulfill our consumers’ orders? This is by far the craziest, most confused, dumbest, article ever written about the shipment of wine.”

It’s hard not to agree with the person who said this to me—an owner of a small Sonoma winery who was dumbfounded upon reading this CNBC article on the proposal to allow the post office to ship wine and beer to consumers.

The number of reporters  the U.S. who understand the mechanics of the wine regulatory structure. Can probably be counted on one or two hands. The number of reporters who grasp the regulatory and business structure of direct to consumer shipping of alcohol can probably be counted on two hands and two feet.

This widespread inability of most reporters to understand how the wine business works has always been a pet peeve of mine, but I’ve never been sure who to blame for it. I’ve spoken to probably 200 reporters on this issue. Probably more. Is it my fault? I wasn’t interviewed for this article, but still. Perhaps I can do a better job. Is it a problem of the alcohol industry being so complex given 51 sets of different regulations? Maybe. Perhaps. I don’t know.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Even among lawmakers who make the laws in 50 states and despite them taking millions of dollars in campaign contributions from stakeholders who want them to write the laws a certain way, even they often don’t understand the workings of their own state’s alcohol regulatory system.

This issue of complexity is something the American Wine Consumer Coalition is working on—coming up with an explanatory paradigm for both consumers and the media so that understanding the American alcohol regulatory system is comprehensible. Lord knows, it’s needed




7 Responses

  1. Marcia Macomber - August 13, 2013

    Agreed that in that article it didn’t sound like the reporter had a full grasp of alcohol distribution. I am hopeful the USPS can find a way to make it work for them. But they’d have to provide good quality service. If wine is cooking in a truck all day pre-delivery, it’s no good. More options on deliver is better for producers and consumers.

  2. Lewis Perdue - August 14, 2013

    Tom, it’s more a function of layoffs in the number of reporters.

    News biz revenues are dropping faster than Congress’s ratings and that means fewer reporters. Those that are left have little time to learn much about anything as they race from topic to topic.

    AND …

    News consumers are too damned cheap to pay for it. They expect everything to be free.

    SO …

    The problem will grow worse until those who read the news are willing to pay for it

  3. Tom - August 15, 2013

    It’s not just reporters covering alcohol laws. When I used to talk to environmental reporters back before free content online I had the same problems, there would be errors in nearly every story because they didn’t want to master the intricacies of complex laws and regulations. Slashing newsroom budgets and trying to figure out how to get people to pay for content has only made it worse.

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