This is a little bit of thoughts to get us in the mood for 1/23/2013 Old vs. New World, Land vs. Brand and David vs. Goliath #winechat
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A recent article talked about the big brands and wine companies market domination in the US. This is tragic and we must fight it with all the passion wine lovers can muster. A recent study by Phil Howard found that 51.5% of the US wine market is sold by three wine companies: Gallo, Constellation and The Wine Group. If we add in the other biggies in this chart the number gets dangerously close to 75% or better. I’ve even seen research suggesting the number is closer to 85%. Yikes! Is the wine industry becoming a version of the beer or soft drinks world where only a couple of giant companies dominate and limit consumer choice? Beer = AB Inbev with 49.7%, MillerCoors with 28.9% and the rest fighting over 21.4% of the market (which includes “small” companies like Heineken, Pabst & Diageo). Soft Drinks = Coca Cola with 42.8%, Pepsi with 31.1%, Dr Pepper & Snapple with 15% and the rest can fight over the remaining 11.1%!
Let’s all get together to fight this trend and reverse it a bit. I’ve been trying as a consultant to restaurants… have a look at some of the wines I like to support here.
So how can we fight the power?
The power in wine buying and drinking lies in knowledge, the more knowledge the less risk and the less we depend on big brands. Please keep in mind that a wine brand that is popular has spent a large amount of money (yours) on marketing, this means more of your wine dollars go towards that and less towards the actual wine that your paying for. Wine knowledge sounds scary but it’s not. Land is the brand we should focus on! Champagne is at the forefront of the land = brand battle, but others need to catch-up and consumers must penalize those that cheat like Korbel.
LAND = BRAND
The simplest way to discover wine knowledge is to divide and conquer. First level is the world then smaller and smaller. So first question is old world or new world. Then which grape. Then lets see where the best of that grape can be found in the old world and the new world. Even if you love ‘new world’ wines, you should experience ‘old world’ versions of the same wine to give you reference. Why? Because that is the way the winemakers have created their wines. They first tasted the original from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Sancerre, Chianti, Barolo/Barbaresco, Germany, Alsace, Spain et al, then they created the best version their talents, land and climate could of those originals.
Every grape has an original home that it thrived in before migrating to other wine regions. Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are some of the wine worlds oldest “heirloom” grapes and both have thrived in a few particular places in the “old world” before migrating to other spots in both the old and new world wine regions.
Cabernet Franc found it’s stride in Bordeaux as a blend with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (both off-spring of Cabernet Franc) and as a single varietal (or predominate of a blend) in the Val de Loire (specifically Chinon and Bourguiel). But it has found new homes in places in South Africa, Santa Ynez, Long Island NY, Italy, Hungary, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Washington State and many others.
Pinot Noir found it’s stride in Burgundy, especially places like Chambertin and Volnay and their neighbors. That wonderful grape has found success in places as far and wide as Central Otago New Zealand, Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Casablanca Valley to name a very few. Apologies to those not listed here.
Chardonnay (an off-spring of Pinot Noir) also found its original home in Burgundy, but in different spots, mostly in the area’s surrounding one of the grapes most famous vineyards: Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune, but also further north in Chablis and even Champagne. The grape has since found agreeable homes all over the globe. Seems Chardonnay adapts to many climates and soils, but still the best soils and climates are those similar to Chablis, Montrachet and Champagne… meaning cool and with chalky like soils.
Further support of my thoughts can be found on Mike Veseth’s blog The Wine Economist