Posted: Dec 26, 2017
Last week I wrote about five topics that were highlights of the year in wine.
These included forward-thinking initiatives and gatherings; definitive books; the persistent popularity of indigenous grapes; California wildfire recovery efforts; and the increasing recognition of women in wine.
I opened the discussion to feedback and comments from readers. Who, for you, impacted your experience of wine this year? Which wines turned your head, or shifted your understanding? Which developments have you up in arms? Which are finally happening, at long last?
Responses were wide-ranging, from international shipping to sustainability efforts to enotourism, but most responses clustered mainly around two of the themes: indigenous grapes and women in wine, which I summarize below. Also included is the "bonus theme" of technology, in particular the development of DTT, or selling wine Direct to Trade.
Which wine themes left an imprint for readers this year? Two major ones were indigenous grapes, and women in wine.
Readers wrote to enthusiastically underscore their support of this theme. Some have used their pursuit of lesser-known grapes to open a new world of books and social media friends; John Szabo's Volcanic Wines (one of my recommended gift books from last year), Charine Tan and Matthew Horkey's Cracking Croatian Wine, and Paolo Monelli's Il Viandante Bevitore all received special mention.
It is, ultimately, an excellent time to be an adventurous drinker, particularly when the momentum of lesser-known grapes is being driven by small- and medium-sized wineries. It's the convergence of two significant trends with the bandwidth to sustain lasting impact: drinking "locally," and supporting small businesses.
Women in Wine
This theme clearly struck a chord with many readers -- you are welcome to view and comment on the Facebook thread in particular -- beginning with when the #MeToo campaign will also hit the wine industry, to the negative repercussions of women reporting sexual harassment or abuse, to shifting organizational culture as well as individual views.
The theme resonates with me personally as well. Some of the most significant advances of my career have been advocated by men who were neither power tripping nor sexually creepy. They either wanted to support a good idea, or they were simply being kind. The wine world has its gentlemen (an old-fashioned word, I know, but it gets the point across), I am grateful to know them and work with them, and I also believe (as Laura Catena said during her interview with Jancis Robinson at the Women in Wine Leadership Symposium in New York earlier this fall) that men are very much part of the solution.
That does not mean, however, that I am blind to the abuses or that I haven't witnessed them myself. I have. I do. Regularly and recently, in fact. So in that way wine is no different than other industries populating the headlines of our news. To me, however, that is not what's most important. What's most important is what we do about it now. What's most important is how we as an industry -- and as individuals -- respond. Participating in that response is, for me, high priority in the year to come.
In my original list I did not include technology -- because of a conflict of interest with Enolytics, my own tech startup, I refrain from covering that category of news -- but I heard from enough readers that I'd be negligent if I didn't include technology in the context of this post. Some readers kindly referenced our work at Enolytics and the potential of data science to help the industry drive performance, lift the quality of conversations with consumers, and move the needle in terms of sales.
Readers also pointed in particular to the increase in DTT business, or selling wine Direct to Trade: licensed retailers nationwide can purchase wine directly from wineries while remaining compliant in the three tier system. This year has been marked by the rise of tech companies in this space, which has evolved as a result of more and more distributor consolidation.
How it works: on the website of a DTT company such as Merchant23.com, registered buyers (retailers, sommeliers, and beverage directors) view wholesale wine prices, order samples, and create purchase orders instantly. Merchant23 facilitates orders through their partnerships with distributors in 48 states for clearing and compliance. The platform also allows buyers to purchase wholesale wines which aren’t on in-state distributors' books, which allows wineries, for their part, to sell their wines in new markets.
By Cathy Huyghe
December 21, 2017
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