Charles Schumer of New York wants the US Postal Service to be able to ship wine and beer. The number three democrat in the Senate made comments this week to roll back a ban on wine and beer shipping that dates to 1909. He calls it a “win win win,” since it would benefit producers (in NY and elsewhere), consumers and the USPS. Schumer argued that the USPS could gain $225 million in revenues from such shipping, largely because it could offer flat rate shipping at lower rates than FedEx and UPS.
Shipping wine by mail is long overdue. In fact, I suggested this for the USPS last year, but since Schumer’s words carry more weight in Washington, I’m glad he’s reached the same conclusion.
However, it doesn’t go far enough. According to The Leader, a paper in Corning, Schumer’s proposal would only permit shipping from wineries (or breweries) to consumers. It makes sense to only give businesses the right to ship since they could put in place the proper age verification mechanisms for recipients. But only allowing wineries makes the mistake of excluding retailers. While we will take what we can get, if Schumer really wants to make this a “win” for consumers and the USPS, his proposals should include the right for wine shops to ship via the mail too. Not only do wine shops offer imported wines, which account for a third of wine sales in the US (and more in NYC, I’d venture to say), but shops often have better pricing than wineries. This, of course, is why Schumer would not want to include retailers. Consumers would obviously rejoice but so would the USPS since their anticipated revenue from wine could swell to $350 million to reflect the share of imported wine in the marketplace.
A final point: if the USPS shipped wine, it would greatly highlight the 39 recalcitrant state governments that still prohibit retailers from out of state to ship. While Schumer is challenging outdated drinks shipping laws, why not put an end to that one too.
Halloween always brings a lot of scaaaaaary stories. But the biggest bogeyman out there in wine news today is the story that the world is running out of wine.
In short, Morgan Stanley’s 78-page report makes the argument that production has fallen through various uprooting schemes in the EU, consumption has risen, and a 600 million case surplus in 2004 has swung to only a 1 million case cushion now.
However, Paul Franson points out that the fear is overblown since Morgan Stanley is the odd one out. It’s worth flagging his account over at Wines & Vines because Franson not only has some good figures but also gets some good quotes. Consider this one from Rabobank’s Stephen Rannekleiv: “It’s worth asking: If the market is so incredibly tight, why are bulk wine prices moving lower in most major regions of the world?” (He has more sanguine analysis about the market and hints at lots of under-the-table activity, adding “buying Spanish bulk wine and selling it as French bottled wine is a great business model.”)
The OIV forecasts an 8% rise in wine production this year. And Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan told the SF Chronicle that “Morgan Stanley’s report is just wrong,” citing a dearth of tank space for inventorying wine, among other factors.
Two things are happening here. First, there’s a ton of bulk wine in the world, admittedly less than there was a few years ago. But there was so much wine being produced that even AOC wine was being distilled into ethanol. Getting rid of wine that’s being made into a fuel additive is not exactly something for a wine consumer to lose sleep over. What is worrisome are the severe weather in places like Burgundy this summer, which will cause scarcity and drive prices higher. But this has absolutely nothing to do with the “wine lake” and distillation end of the market.
Second, many media outlets have picked up this story and run with the “shortage” angle. I know this is a spooky time of year, but praying on the fears of wine drinkers in this issue is unnecessary and short-sighted.
The federal government has shut down “nonessential” services as of today. Surprisingly, that means that the federal agency that regulates the wine industry is also largely shut down. This is surprising because the agency collected $26 billion in revenues for the government–you’d think they would want to keep that flowing.
I spoke with a staffer at the TTB a few weeks ago while I was writing a story about wine label art. In the course of our conversation, he told me that the agency has experienced a surge in requests for label approvals. When they were formed ten years ago, they received 89,000 requests for label approvals whereas today they get 152,000 label requests. A 40% growth in wineries and a 60% rise in brewers have driven the surge. (Meanwhile, because of budget cuts, their headcount has been reduced from 520 to 471 over the same period.) I also spoke with some vintners who complained that the label approval process had slowed this year in the wake of the sequester. And now with the shutdown it will have ground to a halt.
Whenever TTB officials return to work they will have a ton of wine labels awaiting their review. The whole situation is enough to drive one to drink…
Before the shutdown occurred, the TTB did take a preliminary step to approving 11 new AVAs within the existing Paso Robles AVA.
Americans love soda so much that we drink 44 gallons a head last year. But soda sales have slowed, as Americans drank 52 gallons of soda in 1998. So that’s a decline of 18%. Even though that change hasn’t been reflected entirely in America’s waistlines, the secular decline has led to some to argue that “peak soda” is over.
Of course, we’re drinking a lot of other things such as bottled water, coconut water (!), and the juice of pomegranates and acai berries. For beer, the consumption arrow is pointed down (and sentiment is in free-fall). But wine consumption per capita has risen every year since 1993.
So there you have the current score: soda, 44 gallons, red arrow; wine, 3 gallons, green arrow.
Oh, and for a bonus chart of the day, check out the latest poll data from Gallup. They show that Americans of all ages are more into wine than 20 years ago. Only 14 percent of the youngest drinkers then liked wine as their preferred drink (compared to 71 percent who like beer); 29 percent of that cohort now says wine is their preferred drink (with only 43 percent liking beer the most). Young people today like wine twice as much as they did then. And people over 50 don’t really like beer.
The famed Eisele vineyard of Napa Valley has a new owner: Francois Pinault, number 74 on the Forbes billionaires list. Pinault’s Artemis Group, which owns Chateau Latour among other wine properties, has agreed to purchase Araujo Estate Wines from Bart and Daphne Araujo. The price for the 162 acres, including the 38-acre Eisele vineyard, was not disclosed in this statement.
“Araujo Estate and its jewel, the unique Eisele Vineyard, have been producing consistently one of the very best wines of Napa Valley,” Frédéric Engerer, CEO of Chateau Latour, said Read more…
Jolie-Laide, a micro-wine label by Scott Schultz, has attracted out-sized attention for what’s in the bottles: Trousseau Gris, Pinot Gris, and Syrah, all from single-vineyards in California. But with the current vintage, the outside of the bottles have also been turning heads since the labels depict nude line drawings.
Schultz says he varies the labels of the Jolie-Laide (translated as “pretty-ugly”) wines every year. Last year, a calligrapher designed the labels. This year, it is tattoo artist Kapten Hanna who sketched the art for the 280-case production.
John Trinidad posted the above picture to Instagram with the comment, “This wine label is HAWT! And the wine is gorgeous, too.”
Schultz, a former sommelier who currently works at Wind Gap wines, said “We were hoping because it’s just black and grey sketch art, it would remove the sexuality and evoke more a simplistic, old-school approach to the wines.”
Apparently the TTB thought the labels were HAWT too–but not too HAWT to handle. The Pinot Gris (left above) and the syrah (not pictured) passed in the first go-round but the Trousseau Gris needed a second review before getting the green light on July 15. Interestingly, small wines can apply to the TTB for a “certificate of exemption from label approval” and sell their wines only in-state, bypassing the need for federal approval. But with the TTB’s stamp of approval, these wines can now be sold in markets such as New York City, where Shultz says the wines have some fans already.
What do you think — if you were an administrator, would you give these labels a thumbs up? Or, as a consumer, does it pique your interest in the wine?
While I have some quibbles with it (why call it a 7% “majority”? Why is Merlot mentioned in the middle graphic?), it nonetheless provides some good information at a glance. Check it out in reduced size here or in full res over at the Chow Studio site (or a KCET story about the tasting). It might even make you want to seek out something new–or even try for an uber-difficult domestic version of the Wine Century Club. Read more…
Rupert Murdoch, vintner? It’s true. Unlike fellow billionaire Warren Buffett who has invested on the less glamorous (but more profitable?) distribution side of the wine biz, the media magnate is going for the glitz–near Hollywood, no less. He’s buying what may well be the only commercial vineyard in LA, the 16-acre Moraga Estate in Bel Air that was listed for $29.5 million. Murdoch broke the story on Twitter of all places; now the story has been picked up real estate blogs, which have abundant photos. The seller is Tom Jones, former CEO of Northrop Grumman.
I wonder if the wine will now have a certain, er, foxiness to it? If he were to rename it, what would it be called?