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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.


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