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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Wine Wars Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Wine Wars

Mike Veseth, author of the respected wine blog, The Wine Economist, and author or co-author of more than a dozen books, is a professor of International political economy at the University of Puget Sound in the state of Washington and he’s released his first wine-centric book, Wine Wars – a clear-eyed and expansive take on globalism and big business in wine. 

It’s a welcome addition to the wine book shelf.

A good portion of my early wine and wine business POV was informed by Lewis Perdue’s very accessible 1999 wine business book, The Wrath of Grapes, still a fine read if you can find it used.  Veseth’s book is a worthy next generation heir to that tradition.

For many writers, the wine business is handled as a dry, academic subject, but in the hands of Veseth (like Perdue before him) it’s interesting and zippy reading (bordering on a fun vacation read) and an incredibly helpful primer for not only the newly wine interested to help them understand the wine wall at their grocery store, but also savvy veterans who have, perhaps, focused their learning in specific regions, not looking at the wine world in totality and from a business perspective.


I wrote a jacket blurb for Wine Wars, so my opinion is obviously biased—as such this isn’t a formal review per se, but if you’re interested in reading Wine Wars, I have two publisher supplied copies to give away to readers – simply leave a comment and answer this question:  Wine from which emerging wine region is more interesting to you?  Baja California, Mexico, Niagara, Ontario or Eastern Bloc countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Romania?

FedEx and the Wine Pick-up

Take the growth of the global wine world, combine with hegemony in U.S. distribution, add in the growth of wine shipping to consumers and stir it up with niche wine ecommerce sites like Winemonger, Canadian Wine Shop, and Israeli Wine Direct and a couple of things become obvious:  1) We’re all likely to source wine from niche sites in the future and 2) We’re all going to deal with the hassle of providing an adult signature on our wine shipments. 


I use a UPS store for my wine shipments for the convenience of delivery on the first try with packages sent via any shipping company (wine and multiple days on a truck equals a potentially bad outcome) and because store personnel sign for the, “Over 21 signature required” package in my stead.  However, that convenience does have a cost – about $200 a year to have a parcel box, equivalent to a postal service P.O. Box.  It’s worth it to me because I’m not at home during the day to accept and sign for packages and because I choose not to make my employer a part of my wine enthusiasm by having them observe me receiving a steady stream of wine packages on a weekly basis.

Into this fray comes FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s).  They are now offering a service where consumers can receive packages at a FedEx Office location where it will be signed for and held for your pick-up.

There are some initial limitations to this program – FedEx Office isn’t offering a free service AND a personal mail box like I pay for that accepts packages from anyone.  The free service is limited to shipments that are sent by FedEx – you’re out of luck if a package is coming from UPS or the USPS.  In my experience, the overwhelming majority of wine shipments are made by UPS. 

However, a consumer can use a FedEx location for their shipping address if a package is being shipped from FedEx or a package that is in transit can be re-directed from a residential address to a FedEx Office store location, a convenience that FedEx previously charged for. 

This is a prescient move by FedEx and a service that is likely to incrementally improve with additional consumer benefits in the months and years to come for wine consumers.

For more information on this service, I’ve created a PDF that can be downloaded here.

Don’t Forget your Dreams

I was recently turned on to, a crowdsourcing investment site, when a friend of a friend was looking for money to finish a short film.  For a $10 dollar donation I’ll get my name in the credits of the movie.  More than anything, as an entrepreneur at heart, it’s nice to inexpensively help somebody out on a project that is a labor of their love and passion.


To the extent that is interesting to the wine enthusiast, there are a couple of wine-related projects in the midst of seeking funding, one of which is Boxxle from entrepreneur Tripp Middleton from North Carolina. 

Middleton is seeking to solve a dual dilemma with box wines.  First, box wines aren’t very aesthetically pleasing.  Middleton solves this with a sleek, polished stainless steel house for spigoted bags of wine.  Second, and more importantly, bag-in-a-box wines are gravity fed and the spigots are universally at the bottom of the box requiring the edge of the countertop or a hoist to get the wine in your glass.  Middleton solves this with a patent-pending process that is sufficiently vague enough that I can’t explain it, but allows the wine to dispense to the last drop with the spigot pleasingly raised for correct countertop pouring within the housing of the Boxxle.  While you can donate as little as $5, a donation of $75 or more effectively acts as a pre-order for the Boxxle when it goes into production. 

To watch a video on the Boxxle and the project, check out the Kickstarter site here.


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (28) |


On 06/27, Jim Kimmel wrote:

I have been trying to understand why you listed California for a wine emerging region but since it is a choice, I choose California. Maybe I am biased also. But there are many new choices in lower priced wine and packaging coming out of California that make it an “emerging region” for the consumer. Wine in pouches, box bags, kegs, single glass viles. And quality of wine at $10 a bottle has never been better. The consumer will be the winner with the wine industry needing to re-invent itself.

On 06/27, Jeff wrote:


It should read:  Baja California, Mexico.  South of Tijuana.  I made the change.  smile

And, you are winner #1 of the book.


On 06/27, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The Boxxle looks suspiciously like my foot activated trash can!

And Croatia is by far the most interesting to me. One of the ancestral homes of the vine, it gives real meaning to old vine Zinfandel.

On 06/27, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I’m going for the Eastern European countries even though they have been making wine for a long time. It’s just now that they are being imported to the U.S. in enough quantity that they can be purchased by the consumer on a broad basis. With a cost an issue at this time, it’s perfect timing to get their foot in the door with consumers

On 06/27, Katie wrote:

Interested in the Eastern Bloc a great deal, but I’ve been trying to follow Baja for quite some time now, eager to see how it develops (and I get a distinct feeling it will develop into a “wine destination”). I’m hoping for good things given its climate. I think I’m more interested in Baja because it’s a sort of enological underdog…who the hell expects good wine to come from Mexico? Beer, tequila, mezcal, OK…but wine? I’m expecting equally great stuff in that department.

On 06/27, Alec White wrote:

While the Eastern Bloc countries are emerging in terms of the last 50 years, most have a long tradition of wine making going back hundreds of years.  I haven’t tasted a lot of these wines but a few of the ones I have tasted were expressive, minerally (is that a word?) and smacked of the T-word.  So tradition, indigenous grape species, and new capital make for a promising future for this region.

On 06/27, Lewis Perdue wrote:

Thanks for the mention of Wrath of Grapes. I hope to have an e-book edition available this summer.

On 06/27, Jeff V wrote:

I’ve been extremely impressed by the quality of wines coming out of Hungary, Croatia, Georgia and especially Slovenia.  They all have a long, long, long history of producing wines.  In the case of Hungary, world famous wine. I also believe that Hungary, Georgia, and Slovenia are the most exciting wine regions for white varietals in the world.  Rkatsiteli anyone?

On 06/27, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Thank you for the book offer.  I am most interested in whites coming from Niagara.

On 06/27, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Oh…..Baja California. That is funny! Then my next choice is Hungary. Love Budapest. Love Tokaji. Love to see where their wine industry goes after the end of communism.

On 06/28, Jeff wrote:

Thanks all for the comments!

Jim Kimmel and Josh Hermsmeyer were the first two comments to the post and as such win the books. 

Guys - I’ll email to get mailing addresses!


On 06/30, Mike Veseth wrote:

Thanks for the kind words about Wine Wars! It is an honor to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Lewis Perdue.

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