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Monday, June 21, 2010

Wine is a Traditional / Trendy Business


Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot

The Big Three have been in this position for a long time and are pretty much commodities (like milk or sugar). Below the big three there are varieties like Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc shift around trying to become The Next Big Thing (a trend).

The three-tier system of distribution

Something we're left with from Prohibition is the way you're alcoholic beverages get to you. This keeps the remnants of the 1930s mobsters in business by shuffling papers and collecting a big stack of money.


When you think about it it's incredible we still use this archaic method of sealing. Corks don't work that well, they are subject to various failures, and they require a specialized opener.


We're still using funny shaped glass bottles when there are all kinds of modern containers that weigh less, store better because they don't let light in, and are environment friendly.
Now there's even reusable stainless steel bottles that get sent back and refilled.


Wine varieties

Grape varieties are certainly trendy. What is going to be the Next Big Thing? Well, it was going to be Viognier and Syrah. Now it's going to be Pinot Gris and maybe Tempranillo? I have seen a definite rise in some good Rhone-style blends.

Of course, Pinot Noir pegged the trend meter after the wine-related movie "Sideways."

Cults and "pre-cults"

Cults have to be expensive and take some work to find. Some that rate are Hundred Acre, Screaming Eagle, Sine Qua Non, and Bryant Family.

Pre-cults are for people who want to be ahead of the curve and get to the next trendy mailing list before it's full. Of course, pre-cults are also untested and unrated and may turn out to be $150 crap. I believe pre-cult hunting is something dentists do with their spare time.

Who is IN this year?

Five years ago Pride Mountain was all the rage. Now I guess they're boring. And Silver Oak, the original trendy winery? SO passe.

Best I can figure Carlisle and Copain are in this year. Or maybe that was last year. Could be Alpha Omega now.  Everyone wants to know who they should fall for next.

Helen Turley is the goddess of wine. I hope you knew this already.

Wine Styles

Chardonnay got really popular when it got a little buttery, toasty, and oaky so it got really buttery and oaky because if a little is good then a lot will be great. Now there is a tiny trend toward more "natural" Chardonnay. I call it a tiny trend because even though lots of people talk about wanting less butter and oak they still buy that style a lot more than the ones labeled unoaked.

Alcohol levels have crept up as grapes are picked later for more ripeness (riper = more sugar = more alcohol). Some, like me, complain about the overly fruity, hot wines. There is now a "natural" wine trend which seems to be going against the really ripe trend and all the manipulation the wine maker does to make the finished product taste like wine rather than alcoholic grape juice.

Summary:   Acid and tannin are out; fruit is in.

Social media

Three years ago everybody was hiring a brand manager. I'm still not sure what they do. Now everybody wants a social media expert or at least a part-time consultant. How does one qualify for a social media manager? Best I can guess is you have a marketing degree and spend your days in Facebook and Twitter.

This is about marketing directed towards the under-35 year old crowd as they are supposed to be the ones using these technologies. Unfortunately, they aren't the ones buying most of the wine so I hope no one is spending too much money on this trend until it proves itself.


It's been around for over 100 years but just recently caught on with a few vineyards. Why? Beats me. But if one guy does it some other will have to follow suit. There is an organic-like side and then there's the spiritual (for lack of a better word) side. Biodynamics = Sustainable farming + marketing.