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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 01/20/2011

Wine: Two perspectives from a down economy

By Dave McIntyre
grape harvest_opt.jpg Grape growers in California are feeling the squeeze. (Susan Biddle for The Washington Post)

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Market Enforcement Branch saw a spike last year in the number of complaints filed by grape growers against wine buyers who couldn’t fulfill their contracts, the North Bay Business Journal recently reported. While these cases don’t involve any names you’re likely to recognize, they demonstrate the poor economy’s continuing impact on the U.S. wine industry.

Yet the wine industry continues to try to drum up some good news. (Can we string a few more infinitives together just for good measure?) Bloomberg reported this week that younger wine drinkers, now that the recession is easing, are once again “buying up” by choosing pricier bottles in restaurants. Who are the beneficiaries of this? Constellation Brands and Diageo.

Well, okay. These industry behemoths produce enough wines at various price levels that they are probably well insulated against the vicissitudes of a recession. If consumers are indeed “buying up” over what they were willing to pay a year or two ago -- whether in retail stores or restaurants -- I would like to hear about it. More likely, this is wishful thinking.

Consumers may be less reluctant about spending money on wine now that the recession is abating, but we’ve also learned over the last few years that there are plenty of terrific wines available that cost a lot less than what we were used to paying. Maybe prestige of price is less valuable than before, while we’ve discovered that quality can be had for less.

By Dave McIntyre  | January 20, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags:  Dave McIntyre  
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