Wine News You Should Know

It does not appear that the news media is capable of covering more than one story, or one side of one story, at the same time, when maybe offering other views or alternative “facts” would be a reasonable expectation by the reader.

The standard news cycle today, while maddeningly short in many cases, is all about Side One. And every news reporting organization will play the tale for a small amount of time for all it is worth. Then a few weeks later, we are exposed to Side Two, a completely different, maybe even opposite explanation of the situation. Even then a tale that should die an early death is stretched out interminably and without the addition of new news value.

Some stories live far beyond their expiration date. It’s the result of too many news outlets and a deficit of quality news gatherers. I prefer not to offer names. I have to work in this business and if I show up at the club after naming names they might take away my keyboard. The horror!

Here are a couple of items from the adult beverage world that demonstrate my points:

Item 1
The headline in the latest issue of Nation’s Restaurant News, among other publications, notes, “Restaurant Sales, Traffic Dip in December.”

The resulting story paints a slightly different viewpoint, and the “dip” is only about 0.6 percent when compared with the previous month, November. The sky, in other words, is not falling. Matters are “flat” but the dip is not disastrous.

But the other story that remains untold here is that at-home consumption of wines and spirits is up significantly. And here is where, in my opinion, the real story is located, and which the press has largely ignored.

Restaurants that charge high prices for wines and cocktails are not doing themselves or their patrons any favors. People today know what a beverage really costs. They can literally sit at a restaurant table, look at the wine list, pull out their phones, and check the actual retail price of the wines listed on the wine list. They now know not only the high mark-up of the wine on the list, but they also realize that the price that is coming up on the cell phone is a retail price. The restaurant is paying less than the retail price. They buy at wholesale.

No one is against anyone making a decent profit, but a restaurant charging for a bottle of wine 2.5-3 times the retail cost is making way too much profit on just one item. The consuming public knows this. Even those dining patrons that pay the price for a bottle of wine do so begrudgingly. And maybe the patron purchases only one bottle instead of a desired two.

The restaurant is also fighting another dynamic: the stricter enforcement by police of driving while intoxicated laws. If a driver demonstrates any sign of impairment, or if another law is broken and the police discover the driver is also over the legal limit, there will be hell to pay. The penalties for DUI are tougher than ever and the leeway the police are allowed is minimal.

So, higher prices for products in restaurants and the stricter enforcement of DUI laws now contributes to more consumption taking place at home. The advantages are obvious. The price for the wine/spirit is cheaper and there is no car involved.

Home consumption is measurably up while restaurants are faced with tables that are empty or being forced into earlier closing due to no late dining.

The wine and spirits industry are selling more products, just not to the usual customers through the usual channels.

Item 2
California is in the worst drought in more than 500 years, according to every source, including B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. Camping and fishing have been outlawed in much of the state and some communities are down to a 60-day supply of potable water.

In order to grow grapes, some water is needed. In order to keep wineries clean, a lot of water is needed. Those water supplies are in very short inventory.

But in both 2012 and in 2013, the wine grape crop came in at record levels. There’s a lot of juice out there ready to head to market as wine, most at historically low pricing.

On the one hand the media is reporting out the terrible and continually unfolding results of the drought. On the other hand, the wine industry is churning out prodigious amounts of top-quality product. And both circumstances, because you can see the proof, are correct.

There are predictions of a grape shortage because of the drought. Likely won’t happen. Wineries usually take control of their own water, saved in ponds on their own property. They can take a whole year to fill the ponds, even using water from underground resources and aquifers. There is no panic. Unless you count the fact that vehicles are going to be covered with dirt from infrequent washings and even less frequent rains.

Producing grapes in record quantities in the middle of a drought? Declining restaurant sales as wineries produce higher quantities of product?

The legendary news commentator, Paul Harvey, said it best: "And now, you know the rest of the story."



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