That of course is at the crux of all these developments. Wine is continuing to experience widespread growth and increase in popularity which of course means that there is money to made in the world of wine, and the easiest money isn't made in the wine industry itself, but rather on the edges of wine culture. This is where innovation can be rewarded, and low hanging fruit still remains to be picked. Having said that let's take a look at some of the pivotal moments of recent months.
NYS put its foot down.
In a rather stunning reversal of years of non enforcement of the statutes on their books, New York State sent out cease and desist order to New Jersey retailers this past week. While little is known about the motivations and workings within the state liquor authority about this move, it is obviously about protecting the interests of New York's wine retailers. The question we are all waiting to find the answer to though is how might this affect the state's wine industry if other states follow suit and prevent New York's retail wine industry from shipping out of state.
So much of the legislation we have governing wine sales in this country has been put in place to protect the interests of big business, and I find it both sad and baffling how no one cares about the big picture here. From some early rumblings about loosening regulation not even a decade ago we are now faced with continuing tightening of regulations and limiting consumer's access to wine. Of course this is all driven by politics so I should not be baffled that those running things look like they want to screw everything up for their benefit.
Consumers get a voice
The American Wine Consumer Coalition was born this year and it's about time. For too long the laws governing wine sales in the USA have been written for, and often by, those who profit the most from wine sales. These laws are not about keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors, or protecting your local mom and pop stores. No, they are almost exclusively designed to keep the money in the hands of the big boys, and make it as difficult and expensive as possible to challenge them. That limits the selection of wines available to consumers and often keeps the prices artificially inflated.
The AWCC is hoping to change that but they will need money to battle the vested interests of the status quo. I urge you all to take a look at their site and consider if their goals might be worth a contribution. In short the AWCC promotes laws that encourage the unfettered interstate shipment of wine from wineries, retailers, auction houses and wine clubs and fights for common sense laws supporting BYOB and corkage regulations. Check them out at Wineconsumers.Org
Naked Wines is direct to consumer
With the imminent crack down on interstate shipping, 38 states already ban it and New York's move is sure to provoke a round of retaliatory enforcement, some promising wine sale models that depend on interstate shipping seem a little less likely to thrive. None the less there is still a lot of interest, and a lot of money being placed behind these endeavors. Some are retailers or wine cubs, and they will be the most impacted by these enforcement issues, but others, like Naked Wines are really wineries and subject to different laws regulating interstate sales and shipping.
Naked Wines just received a $10 million round of financing following on the heels of their $50 million 2012 fiscal year, where they saw their first profit of $1.5 million. Off to a promising start and well financed, Naked Wines looks poised to change how the wine world operates.
Treasury changes course
Treasury Wine Estates, the world's second largest public wine company announced this summer that they would be taking a $145 Million write down to remove old stock from their inventory. Some of the stock is to be destroyed as Treasury made clear a few days ago announcing that they would be destroying or distilling some $33 million worth of white wines that are old and not worth selling. To Treasury's credit, this effort, as painful as it may be in the short term does offer a significant benefit in protecting the brand's reputation with consumers.
The silver lining here is that some of this write down reflects discounting efforts that Treasury will devote to older stocks of Australian wines. While Australia's wine reputation has not recovered from the damage done to it by various forces in the middle of the last decade, the wine themselves have recovered from the excesses that were at least partly to blame for their loss of market share. There should be some very attractive buys coming down the Treasury pike and in a way this might reintroduce consumers to Australia's wines, helping to rehabilitate Australian wine's image and set the stage for a come back over the coming years.
Coravin sticks its nose in it
In case you haven't heard, Coravin is a new wine dispensing/preservation system that seems poised to make a huge impact in the way wine is consumed in this country, at least fine wine. By penetrating the cork in the bottle with a fine needle, Coravin is able to displace as much of the wine as you'd like to try by introducing inert gas in the bottle to take the liquid's place. You can read more about it in an article written by our own Eric Guido here.
Supposedly the cork is able to essentially reseal itself and offer years of cellerability post Coravin use. Whether or not that is true, the wine certainly remains fresh for days if not weeks, allowing a wine lover to enjoy a bottle over that period of time without fear of the wine spoiling, though where I see the real value here is for restaurant's by the glass program where expensive wines can now be dispensed and preserved over the course of the days or weeks it may take to sell a luxury wine by the glass. I can see some novelty value here, but for the most part I'm still going to be opening a bottle and drinking it over the course of a day or three. It's a system that's worked well for me up to this point so I personally see no reason to change, but I know many that will.