The Top Ten Important Wine Questions

There are a variety of interesting and even significant questions staring the wine industry in the face right this minutes. They are the kind of questions that have answers that will significantly impact the wine industry and they are the kind of questions I like to ponder and often write about. These are ten of those questions and they are questions I don’t have answers to and in some cases, don’t even know how to evaluate. Do you?

ONE
Fifteen thousand restaurants have, so far, closed for good across the United States. Undoubtedly that number could double or more. Assuming an effective COVID therapeutic or vaccine in 12 months, what will this loss of restaurants mean for on-premise wine sale after the treatment is available?

TWO
Both alcohol producers and retailers are selling more online today due to the COVID pandemic. What percent of these online buyers will remain online buyers going forward following a treatment or vaccine and what percent will abandon the shopping cart, so to speak?

THREE
When will the sale of winery properties and brands ramp up? When will the vineyard sales ramp up?

FOUR
Will the announcement of successful COVID treatment or vaccine result in a national celebration akin to the announcement of V-E Day at the conclusion of the European portion of World War II?

FIVE
What kind of response will it take for the anti-racist social justice movement that has touched the wine industry to result in proportional representation of African Americans in the U.S. wine industry and what will be the impact if the various efforts don’t nudge the needle on representation?

SIX
Is there anything specific about the operating and regulatory structure of the American wine industry that accounts for the underrepresentation of African Americans in the industry?

SEVEN
Does a new President in January 2021 impact the health of or trends within the wine industry in any significant way?

EIGHT
Is it plausible, given the continued expansion of the numbers of small craft brewers, distillers and wineries, that sooner rather than later state requirements that in-state and out-of-state producers sell to wholesalers will be abandoned?

NINE
Besides the extraordinarily high cost of annual label changes, what will be the impact of all wine sold in America being required to including ingredients on their labels?

TEN
Will FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog make it to its 20th Anniversary in four years?


No Responses

  1. Jim Ruxin - August 4, 2020

    Tom–

    I wish you had asked me sooner, I could have saved you and your readers the mystery:

    #1 The restaurant industry will not recover quickly or easily. So many mom and pop venues provided only a subsistence living for those families. The new immigrants will embrace this easier to enter business since workers have to be fed…yes the same recent immigrants.
    But it is a sadder and wiser niche now. Fine dining will have been exposed for overpriced pandering to the 1% who will think twice about ostentatious spending which will return as the pandemic retreats into the past, if it ever does.

    Takeaway, people will realize how much more fun they have at home, eating and drinking leisurely with friends. Fine dining will be special occasion only.. We will learn how to do more for ourselves and our families at home.

    #2 Those who enjoy alcohol will realize how convenient and cheap it is NOT to drink outside the home. Not to mention the risk of getting stopped for a DUI. Life, like our clear skies, is so much better without driving so much. Percentage change? My hunch is 33-40% of the added offline purchases will remain offline, at a minimum.

    #3 Vineyard and winery consolidation favors the consolidators and not the consumers. Diversity suffers. The individual character of wines, the personal creations of independent winemakers, is diminished. For people who enjoy alcohol and respect its producers for their individual commitment to quality, consolidation is not something to be desired.

    Look at the custom flour milling industry. It is totally flourishing now. It cannot compete on price, but does extremely will on quality, sustainability, and customer loyalty. The future is in consumers realizing that they can discern quality and are willing to pay a little more for something distinctive they can build a relationship with. Imagine…consumer decisions based on quality instead of commercial promotion and brand building.

    Craft beers have much to teach us about consumer preferences and the hunger for something that is not only NEW but GOOD too.

    #4 Vaccine availability and efficacy will not be a sudden announcement but a gradual return to confidence and security. That also means the whole economic recovery may realize an immediate boost, but until the infection, positivity and death rates decline, skepticism will be the norm.

    #5 Good question, but it is the same for the rest of the economy. Widespread social changes do not come quickly. It takes change oriented leaders within an industry as well as the societal will to expect more employment equality from any industry.

    If left alone, these issues tend to wither. The wine industry is not unique. Consumers at the lower price points don’t care who the executives are as long as the wine is consistent and cheap.

    Upmarket consumers have to make the most noise to see substantive changes here. Government mandates for better hiring practices are not enough. Fewer minorities live in the wine growing areas, and the urban poor grow up a long way from wine culture, not just distance. Poverty hurts and deprives people of pleasures that should be more basic and available to all.

    #6 We just drink the stuff. Ask an insider, but many will not want to discuss this. There are plenty of conservative social warriors in the wine industry…it is centered in rural areas in most states. Change comes slowly, especially when the money is entrenched in decades of access to power, money and government.

    #7 First there will be a huge celebration over dismissing this very evil, selfish and egocentric personality from creating so much misery and death on our nation and so disrupting the world order by destroying the respect and integrity all our previous post WWII governments engendered among the nations of the world.

    He has squandered our political and moral currency, while strengthening the despots, dictators and tyrants of the world to continue to wreak havoc on the poor and anyone else not in their circle of kleptocrats.

    But soon after the election we will settle down into the hard work of rebuilding the nation, the upcoming generations of young people, the environment and world stability. It will take more than just a new President to re-establish the good faith Trump has destroyed in our state department, in our sincere geopolitical desire to be a trusted leader, and in the credibility of our scientific positions and contributions.

    Like everything else post-pandemic, nothing will come quickly or easily. It took 10 years to overcome the 2008 recession, itself a travesty of respectable moral and economic stewardship.

    If the other aspects of our society move forward, the wine industry will as well. There are far more important and more powerful business leaders in the tech world who also must finally admit that they have a stake in lifting others up.

    China is only a masquerade but a formidable player, as is Putin. We actually have dedicate ourselves to tangible, sustainable and transparent policy changes that make corporations more socially responsible, our own lawas more fair, and our foreign policy more devoted to limiting tyrannical power.

    The free market is not free to oppress. Adam Smith, in his next book after “The Wealth Of Nations,” said in “The Moral Sense” that the free hand of the market means nothing if not used with general welfare in mind. Greed has no place in this philosophy. Libertarians and fiscal conservatives are not welcome in the world he envisioned.

    #8 The three tier system will eventually disappear, but it will take another generation of lobbyists and politicians to die off before consumers are actually favored and unencumbered by alcohol laws created by corrupt politicians in the 1920s.

    #9 Labeling requirements will not be terribly important. Make good wine, people will drink it.
    Make cheap wine, people will drink it. Make transparently labeled wines, people will drink it.
    Change will be slow. Labeling does not mean quick gains of sustainability, quality or consumer health..But it may help some producers trends towards the natural.

    #10: Will Tom Wark keep his chops for four more years? Let’s hope so. We will continue to need all the voices of fairness and reason the industry’s truye supporteers can muster. Especially if the great Orange One is re-elected. Tom performs a great service to the industry by providing a constant stream of thoughtful, impartial insights. Let the chips continue to fall wherever, Tom. The future needs your voice just as much as the past has.

    Of course you could have asked me first, but your provocative questions certainly gave your readers a lot to think about. Part of your job.

    Please forgive my long winded answers and any typos if you got this far. It’s the thought that counts.

  2. Judy Parker - August 5, 2020

    Jim, your points depressed me so much I curled on the couch with Lord Tubbington eating bacon wrapped cashews. A few quibbles:
    # 1 – I don’t see the fining dining restaurants closing; instead, I see the lower-range single places close. Think: all of Portland, sadly. We as a city have built an industry of earnest thoughtful menus and experiences but at affordable prices. I see those going away but the large chains staying. Sadly.
    # 3 – I don’t think you’ll see that in the northwest. Sure, Jackson Family remains the largest owner of vineyard land in Oregon, but I’m seeing folks coming in to plant and continue vineyards all the time. This is good news that I disagree with you, though!
    # 7 – HEAR HEAR
    #10 – Again, HEAR HEAR Tom you aren’t going anywhere, sorry not sorry

  3. You're wrong - August 6, 2020

    #7 .. I do hope the citizens of China get rid of the Xi. He had a weapon of mass destruction and leashed it out over the entire world to suffer! To die. Xi has blood on his hands!


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