Posts Filed Under wine news
“Investing” in fine wine is a fool’s errand.
As in, “greater fools” – for it is certainly a fool who hopes to sell his/her speculation to greater fools for a profit.
The term greater fool is actually a pseudo-technical financial one, probably best explained in William J. Bernstein’s amazing book The Four Pillars of Investing (emphasis mine):
“The acquisition of a rare coin or fine painting for purely financial purposes is clearly a speculation: these assets produce no income, and your return is dependent on someone else paying yet a higher price for them later. (This is known as the “greater fool” theory of investing; when you purchase a rapidly appreciating asset with little intrinsic value and no capability to create income on its own, you are dependent on convincing someone else to take it off your hands later at a higher price.) There’s nothing wrong with purchasing any of these things for the future pleasure they may provide, of course, but
this is not the same thing as a financial investment.”
Substitute “coin” with “red Burgundy” and “painting” with “First Growth Bordeaux” and the quote would remain apt, cogent and frighteningly applicable. The bottom line is that holding onto fine wine for any reason other than to eventually drink it (or pass it on to someone else who might) is stupid.
This is because wine does not conform in any way to the modern paradigm of investing, which is built upon lower-risk (and thus lower-returning) loans or higher risk (and thus higher-returning) valuation of something’s (usually a company’s) ability to make profit. At best, it’s a hedge that someone (the greater fool) will want the object badly enough to take it off your hands at a price higher than what you paid for it…
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It’s that time of year, again.
Last year, Michael Cervin (with whom I later toured the wine scene in Crete) from IntoWine.com stirred up a minor sh*tstorm when he published the inaugural version of his list of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry.
We love lists, and we hate them. Hence the ensuing sh*storm: why was so-and-so left off? how could they place what’s-his-name so high up on the list? are these guys just attention-grabbing?… etc. My takeaway last year was that the list was “good for a pulse check, probably bad for anything more substantial than that.” I’m pretty much of the same mindset regarding the recently-published 2013 version of the list.
According to IntoWine.com, they don’t really have a strong agenda in compiling this list of influencers:
“Does influential mean people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, form policy, and create debate? Yes… We merely define the Top 100 people, from winemakers to law makers, bankers to bloggers, and sommeliers to celebrities who influence wine; how it is made, marketed, perceived, sold, shipped, purchased, shared and consumed.”
Over the last year, not a lot of shuffling took place in the top 20 (I swapped places with Eric Asimov, which puts him ahead of me and therefore rights at least one wrong from the 2012 version!) – I’m not sure if that means that the wine biz in the U.S. is pretty stagnant from an influencer perspective, but the advent of the list is a god excuse for us to take a pulse of the U.S. wine biz in general…
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Anyone remember back in 2011, when we talked about the fact that Boomers – who by and large account for the vast majority of current wine sales – wouldn’t be around forever, and so the wine biz really needed to get off of its duff and start thinking about how it would court Gen X and Millenial buyers?
Well, I’ve got some bad news for those who’ve been ignoring that advice.
In the 2013 incarnation of Silicon Valley Bank’s annual State Of The Wine Industry Report presentation, a round-table style discussion between author Rob McMillan (from SVB’s wine division), Paul Mabray of VinTank, Tony Correia of The Correia Company and MJ Dale of KLH Consulting, who discussed the results of the report live in mid-January 2013. During the discussion (uber-interesting for wine geeks and insiders, probably not so much for normal people), McMillan (who is a nice and interesting guy, by the way, something I found out when I had dinner with him at Nickel & Nickel) discussed the sobering fact that the exit of Boomers from the wine market will be a potentially enormous blow to wine sales, and that the Millennial generation requires focus to help fill the expected gap.
To ease in the understanding of this, I’ve taken a graph from the SVB report and “enhanced” it so that the implications are more, well… transparent (click to “embiggen”):
In other words, Boomers don’t just exit the wine market “feet first” (though many, hopefully, will continue to love wine and keep on buying it until they shuffle off this mortal coil); they exit it in droves when they retire. The message is this: if you’re a wine producer who hasn’t been courting younger generations as well as Boomers (And as we’ll see in a minute or two, chances are good that you haven’t), you ought to be crapping a brick right about now…
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Today, a quick-hit to tell you that my friend Evan Dawson’s recently-released book Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes just took home the award for “International Wine Book of the Year”at the 2012 Louis Roederer Wine Writing Awards.
I am personally thrilled for Evan, who is having a banner year in 2012 as he kicks ass and takes names across the wine writing spectrum. Evan is the kind of writer whose works make the rest of the on-line wine media world look good.
I’d offer you more thoughts on Evan’s first printed work, but as I’m quoted in it and am clearly biased all I can tell you is that it’s a decidedly well-written humanist take on the stories behind the Finger Lakes wine region. For more non-review thoughts on the book, check out my, well, non-review from a little over a year ago.
Congrats to Evan on such a well-deserved win – my friend, you’re making us proud!