Posts Filed Under wine industry events
Remember when I said I was heading to New Hampshire Wine Week (as a media guest)? That was back in February, and, yes, I am just now getting around to talking about it.
I’d love to tell you that delay is due to me being stupid amounts of busy (which I am), but it’s not. The delay is total aww-man-I-don’t-wanna-have-to-write-this-term-paper procrastination. Why? Because writing about NH’s consumer-facing wine event requires facing my own personal hell, which is having built a life in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and then becoming a wine lover, and having to deal with the PA Liquor Control Board.
Now, NH is also a control state, with the NHLC acting as both wholesaler and retailer for distilled liquor and wine. But NH’s progressive take on being a control state – which is driven almost entirely by the fact that it has competition, with half of its business comes from cross-border states – further solidifies PA’s status as the f*cking North Korea of U.S. wine and spirits shopping experiences. As one NHLC exec told me, “We give selection and price, and now we need to focus on service to complete the circle,” which I can basically tell you is indeed happening, after having spent time there reviewing how they stack up to PA. From profitability (all of their stores turned a profit last year) to shipping (>1K direct shippers) to associate training to wine selection/availability (14K SKUs) to fees / taxes (roughly 8%), NH makes PA look like what it really is, the single worst state in the Union in which to buy wine.
So… coming back to PA from NH is like returning to hades. It’s like the end of 2112 where that dude finds the guitar in the cave and the Priests tell him to get bent on his music and he dreams of a more progressive future and then kills himself in despair (since this came out in the `70s, I’m not considering that a spoiler), only without the suicide though with the Prog Rock (because I was listening to awesome, angry King Crimson music on the ride home). In NH, I have seen a system that, while not perfect (hey, we’re still talking about the government being involved in private enterprise, which is bizarre at its core), is like a dreamy glimpse at what PA ought to be, what it could be if only the PLCB gave a stale rat’s ass about anyone actually making, buying, or drinking wine (when only the middlemen benefit, you know the system is totally broken).
So, before I get depressed enough to grab an acoustic and head off to a cave, let’s talk about a happier topic: namely, the juice being poured at NH Wine Week 2014…
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Frequent 1WD readers know that I get a bit, er, cantankerous when I notice long-standing wine industry types make wildly speculative – or even downright inaccurate – claims about how the wine industry functions, without citing any data in support of their crap claims.
This happens (just a guesstimate) roughly every seven minutes or so (many bloggers succumb to this as well, so I’m not picking on any particular kind of medium here).
In a small attempt to help bring the smack-down on such rampant speculative behaviour by those who ought to know better, during my recent stint at Wineries & Breweries Unlimited 2014 in Richmond I decided to sit in on a (not-surprisingly somewhat poorly attended) session where real data were presented.
“Emerging Trends within Beverage Alcohol” was a presentation highlighting what’s actually happening in the wine world right now, from a consumer perspective, and was given by Nielsen’s Elizabeth Crews (Vice President/Analytic Lead for Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area), based on a combination of information collected at retail scans, via consumer panels, and through actual account data. It’s probably not perfect, but it’s also probably as close to perfect as we’re going to get when it comes to consumer trends in wine in the U.S.
Here are my notes on the session, sans commentary, and based on the data presented (I’m paraphrasing, which will piss off some people I’m sure, but it’s because I don’t have access yet to the actual numbers that were shown; if I can get them, and/or the presentation itself, I’ll post them here). Bottom lines: if you think Millennials and GenX aren’t key to the future of fine wine sales, you’re probably wrong; if you think beer and other adult beverages won’t come gunning for wine drinkers in terms of media spend, you’re also probably wrong; if you think expensive fine wine has no real market after the recession, you’re… wait for it… wrong; if you think blends can’t be popular because they’re not taking advantage of the brand recognition of well-known grape varieties, you’re also, maybe… wrong; and if you think Malbec is dead in the wine sales water, you’re very wrong.
My aim here is posting this is largely selfish, in that I strongly suspect that I’ll be linking back to this post incessantly when commenting on other websites, to deliver smack-downs on the under-supported speculation that seems rampant online and in Op-Ed pieces right now. And yes, I realize those efforts are totally Sisyphusian, but I just can’t help myself…
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After I announced that I’d be sitting on the “Meet the Bloggers” panel at Wineries & Breweries Unlimited 2014 in Richmond with Fredric Koeppel and David White, a few (dozen) of you asked me (mostly privately) if the session would be recorded. Thanks to some help from the friendly Nomacorc folks, here is the panel, all just-about-one-hour of the thing.
Fredric, David and I took questions from moderator Tina Caputo, editor of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, during which we discussed the importance of blogs to the wine industry, waxed pseudo-philosophic about the leveling of the brand awareness playing fields provided by social media, and relayed how we think wine brands can best approach wine bloggers to get them to tell their stories. Fredric was pointedly and intelligently acerbic (and wore his shades), David was soft-spoken and articulate, and I was my normal spastic self.
There’s not much more to tell you about the event, unless you’re in the market for barrel cleaners, tasting room signs, wine business loans and legal services, tractors, or steel tanks. But I had a great time meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and offering a bit of (somewhat toned down… hey, it was a friendly crowd, alright?) tough luv for the local wineries and media types who attended our little blogging panel session.
Ok, start watching, already!
1WineDudeTV Episode 60: How Wine Brands Can Get Blogs to Tell their Stories