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Indiana the first at anything?

WinedecanterAccording to Indiana’s Wine Grape Council, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of Indiana’s wine industry (actually, most states have these groups—Ohio, for example, has 80 some wineries), Indiana can stake to have the first successful grapegrowing and winemaking venture early in the nineteenth century—this was led by John James Dufour, a footnote in history, but a seemingly important catalyst and Indiana’s own trailblazer.

When John James Dufour, a Swiss immigrant fleeing Napoleon’s armies,set foot in America in 1796, there was no American wine industry. Hehad been sent by his family to scout the best possible place to start aSwiss colony devoted to wine making. He traveled through the MidAtlantic states and found nothing that represented a successfulvineyard. He then crossed the Appalachian Mountains, descended the OhioRiver and eventually settled near Lexington, Kentucky where he foundeda vineyard funded by the sale of shares to the wealthy citizens of thatcity.

Dufour later sought out a new site for the Swiss colony that wason its way from Europe. He purchased land in the newly surveyed IndianaTerritory north of the Ohio River. He took cuttings of the Cape grapeto plant at the new site that would later become Vevay, Indiana. TheCape grapes planted at Vevay proved to be the basis for the firstsuccessful wine production in the United States.


Does Consolidation Put a Pinch on Consumers? Pt II of II

An article in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle raises a couple of good questions—particularly related to the consolidation of wineries and distributors:

Consolidation may actually be a good thing because it allows smaller wineries to rise up in the wake of the usual brand miss-steps when acquisitions take place.  That is unless ...

Distribution is also getting smaller.

Consolidation of distributors is a bigger threat than Gallo and Constellation to small- and medium-size wineries. In some states —  not including California —  one wine distributor has created a monopoly by buying up or squeezing out its competitors. Once such a monopoly exists, there’s no incentive for a distributor to deal with smaller brands that may not be able to provide a year-round supply of their product. 

Consolidation of retailers and restaurants is also a problem. Gallo spokesman Tim McDonald says, "Large retailers want to have a Cabernet or Chardonnay or Merlot that nobody else has," and his company is large enough to create retailer-specific brands like Winking Owl for them. The low prices on these relatively anonymous brands make tough competition for smaller producers.

Insel says the wine lists at national restaurant chains like Red Lobster "are dominated by Beringer and Gallo. The very large guys have to maintain supply and volume to maintain their distribution channels."

Large wine companies benefit from getting even bigger, Insel says, so they have even more marketing clout. She says she expects more wineries to be bought up in 2006. At the same time, she says, "There’s still plenty of room for small wineries."

The biggest difference between now and then (then being the timewhen baby-boomers where coming of age in the late 70s and early 80s andwines last golden era) is distribution. These days, distributors are a verysmall fraction of what they used to be in total number while quantity of wine brands and the number of wineries is growing.  Who gets hurt in thisprocess of distributor consolidation—relative at least to the winery/brand acquisition:   It’s the small, regional non-California winery who doesn’t havethe ability or the $$ to market #1) very expensive boutique wines or #2)who  doesn’t have the scale to seek distributor assistance or at least get distributor attention. 

Oh, and,yeah, by the way, consumers get hurt too because we don’t have thechoice at the shelf because small wines from small wineries are a raretreat indeed.

So, what’s the answer?  Clearly, it’s to let market economics takehold so I can buy wine from whomever I choose—and to end the fact thatmany states don’t allow consumers to buy wines direct from a winery andhave that wine shipped to a persons home.  But, that’s a whole ‘nother story.  But, in mysimple mind "Adventure" brands, regional wineries, wine shipping andGeneration Y are all linked together.


Does Consolidation Put a Pinch on Consumers? Pt. I of II

An article in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle raises a couple of good questions—particularly related to the consolidation of wineries and distributors:

Richard Peterson was an enologist at historic Beaulieu Vineyard in 1969 when it was bought by the Connecticut spirits company Heublein Corp., which also owned food brands such as Grey Poupon mustard. Peterson says then-Heublein executive Andy Beckstoffer —  now one of the largest vineyard owners in Northern California —  tried to persuade Peterson to use Thompson seedless grapes, cheap grapes meant for eating, rather than pricier wine grapes in BV’s sparkling wine. 

"Heublein never caught on," Peterson says. "The big wine companies today, they’re all very sharp."

Peterson and many others say inexpensive wines today are more consistently palatable than ever, and the wine savvy of the industry’s leading corporations has much to do with it.

One point that the article misses is that the guys in the 1970s that were doing the consolidating aren’t really the players as today (except maybe Gallo), so the times have changed and so have the names.  And, really the brands and wineries that are being bought might not have been around in the 70s—creating an economic cycle that might actually be good for smaller wineries to grow.


What the Hell is Good Grape?

Wine Most every mainstream wine writer, magazine, website or other media outlet seeks to demystify wine. 

And, at the same time, we know that Generation X & Y are adopting wine as a part of their lifestyle.

Regional wineries are proliferating at an exponential rate and so called "Adventure" wines   are flying off the shelves.

Stop into any regional winery on a Saturday and you will find a packed parking lot and a tasting room with throngs of people under the age of 40—most under the age of 35, and many still in their 20s. 

Based on research at Wine Market Council:

This report will show that Generation X adults, now mostly in their 30s, are finally taking to wine in significant numbers. Moreover, the Millennial generation, now entering young adulthood, is exhibiting the same receptivity to wine that leading edge Baby Boomers did more than 30 years ago. Like the Baby Boom generation, their numbers are so great as to make their dominance in the market inevitable, and they offer the wine industry the kind of growth potential not seen in more than thirty years.

We know that people are quaffing simple, fruit-forward wines.

So, what’s to demystify?  Not much. Like most things related to the Internet and a younger generation the rules have changed and the old guard is clinging to a model of business that is no longer valid for young coveted consumers. This blog is dedicated to wine for people that like wine, but not necessarily the conventions of the current wine industry. 


Good Grape Commandments

The Good Grape Commandments

10) Wine is regional & historical

9) Pity the wine snob

8) Taste is relative

7) Quality is not proportional to price

6) 100 point rating systems are subjective

5) Enjoyment of life & wine is a function of time, place and company

4) Every wine and winery has a story

3) If you can’t go to the winery, let the winery come to you

2) Life is measured by experiences

1) Drink. Taste. Celebrate the Good Grape!


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