The Wine Issues and Items of 2019
After working on behalf of clients, my time is often taken up with attention paid to those issues and items in the wine world that most significantly impact my industry and my life. In 2019 there were many wine issues and items that consistently captured my attention. Going forward into 2020, many of these issues should attract your attention too.
For those of us who closely follow the wine news and news of the industry, the aggregators have become indispensable: Wine Industry Insight, Wine Business, and Wine Industry Advisor currently curate a selection of wine news on a daily basis. And don’t underestimate their impact to draw attention to writers, websites, news outlets, and issues. They continue to set the table for what the industry pays attention to.
Historic Vineyard Society
I’ve mentioned the Historic Vineyard Society in the past, but once again I found myself studying their website throughout the year, educating myself on the vineyards located throughout California that are genuine landmarks. The Society certifies vineyards across the state that have survived for at least 50 years. I’m not sure the degree to which this organization requires funding. However, if they do require funding I can’t think of a better institution to which wineries and industry types can contribute if they possess and interest in legacy and history.
Wine Media Conference
The Wine Media Conference (Formerly known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) has been on my radar and an organization that I have supported since its founding in 2008. Thousands of bloggers, writer and educators have helped it become an annual event where mutual support and camaraderie is exhibited and real education happens. Next year will see the conference arrive in Eugene, Oregon, giving attendees a chance to get to know a rising wine region and give wineries in Southern Oregon a chance to shine.
The Friends of the Court
Throughout 2019, as a result of my connection to the National Association of Wine Retailers, I’ve been paying close attention to the legislative and court battles that have defined the contours of the effort to open the wine shipping channel for full retailer participation. For me, the most interesting and revealing of how the anti-shipping forces are working to keep the shipping channel closed has been the various amicus briefs they have filed in the Tennessee Wine v Thomas Supreme Court case as well as various court cases that are ongoing in Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri. These “Friend of the Court” briefs help courts understand what is at stake and how a modern American alcohol market can function in the 21st century. There are two places to find collections of these briefs. All the Friend of the Court briefs in the Tennessee Wine Supreme Court case can be found here. Other Friend of the Court briefs from other wine shipping lawsuits can be found at Alcohol Law Review.
The Anonymous Emailers
After 15 years of writing FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog, I’m still surprised that I receive anonymous emails from folks who are intent on telling me just exactly how stupid and deluded I am. This year was no exception. Generally, these anonymous emails speak to my views on wholesalers or the three-tier system. But I wanted to share a small part of the most recent anonymous hate email that touched on another subject: “You out yourself as true misoginist (sic) and likely a racist to (sic). All the proof is in your little blog. You are being watched.” Does this mean I have one more dedicated reader?
Hit The Bottle
We are currently experiencing a true riches of wine podcasts (see below). But the one wine podcast that caught my attention most this year was “Hit The Bottle”, a podcast produced by Michale Wangbickler and Emma Criswell of Balzac Communications — a wine PR and marketing firm. They are producing compelling content featuring some of the best marketers in the wine business (with one coming exception). Hit the Bottle is a Must-Listen source of great advice, particularly for marketers at American wineries.
My New Office
After nearly 11 months of residing in the city of Salem in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I remain thrilled to be here with my family. Every day I sit in my office on the second floor of our new home and take the time to stare out the window at the birds, trees, garden and muted grey skies. It has not gotten old. I’ve yet to take on a new client from my new home but hope to in 2020 if only because I want an even more intimate connection to our new state of residence.
The Three-Tier System
I’ve always paid attention to the moving and changing “three-tier system”. However, in 2019 that system appears to be in a true state of flux. The future of that system is in no way guaranteed. Additionally, events of 2019 made it clear that the authority of this system as a means of talking about alcohol regulation is being challenged. Many of the more arbitrary aspects of state-based alcohol regulation are being challenged today, particularly those that really provide little to no protection to public safety but rather are in place because one element of the alcohol industry wanted a bit more economic protection. The next ten years are going to see tremendous change to how the alcohol regulatory system is organized and, as a result, how wine is sold, marketed and distributed.
Trying to track the emergence, evolution and changes to the world of wine podcasts in 2019 has been a challenge. One thing is clear, there is not something for everyone in this booming medium. There are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 wine podcasts broadcasting around the world. My favorites (see “Hit the Bottle” above) include those that take production value series and bring expertise and entertainment to the table. Along those lines, I recommend “Wine For Normal People” to anyone in the industry.
The last part of the year saw wine brought into the international trade wars. Now, as we speak, there is a very serious proposal to place a 100% tariff on wines from the European Union. It’s difficult to fully explain the monumental impact such a tariff scheme will have on wine consumers and the wine industry in general. If those attempting to convince the Trump administration not to impose these tariffs fail, we could see huge structural changes to the way the wine industry works in the United States from the role of importers and distributors to the configuration of retailer inventory and the emergence of serious new players in the value wine arena.