Fine Wine: Alternative Asset or Emerging Market?

My friend Rebecca Gibb who edits the online wine magazine at Wine-Searcher.com has invited me to write a periodic column on the fine wine investment market. The first column appears today — follow this link to read it. I survey some summer trends in the wine investment market and then ask whether fine wine is best viewed as an alternative investment like oil and gold as as an “emerging” investment market.

The challenge of writing about wine investment is appealing and I look forward to the opportunity to spend more time studying this fascinating intersection of wine and economics. But what sort of column should it be?

I don’t want to write that Paul Krugman calls “up and down” economics. You know, Chateau this down in today’s auction, chateau that up on the Liv-Ex ticker. Besides, the auction houses and trading platforms already provide lots of this sort of information. No comparative advantage for me there.

So analysis and interpretation is what I will try to provide. And a bit of perspective, too, both in terms of time frame (not sure how frequently I will write on this, so I will take time to digest the incoming news) and economic interest. Much of what you see about fine wine investment comes from inside the market bubble, written by people with a dog in the fight. I’ll try to provide an outsider view.

How will this work out? Will I find interesting stories to tell? Will Wine-Searcher’s readers think they are useful? Too soon to tell — that’s what I think. But I would appreciate it if you’d check out today’s column and let me know what you think.

I’d also appreciate your ideas about where I should focus my magnifying glass in the future. Cheers!

Who Should Be The Voice of Wine Wars?

I’ve just learned that Audible.com is going to produce an audio book version of Wine Wars. They are interested in my opinion about who should read the book — what kind of voice would be best for Wine Wars?

I’m not sure, so I thought I would ask you, my readers. Should the voice be young or old? Male or female?  Should the reader have an accent of some sort — British, French, Spanish, Italian?  Is there a particular person’s voice that you’d like to hear?

Please use the comments section below to let me know what you think.  I don’t know if Audible.com will take your advice,  but if they respond to a particular comment I will send that person an autographed book (your choice of Wine Wars, Extreme Wine when it is published or Globaloney 2.0).

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes at The Wine Economist


Things are ch-ch-changing a little bit here at The Wine Economist: stepping down, moving up and shifting gears.

I’m stepping down from my “day job” as the Robert G Albertson Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound and moving up to the title of Professor Emeritus . This will give me a bit more time to think, talk and write about the business of wine — shifting The Wine Economist project (this blog, my books and speaking engagements)  into a higher gear.

I’m not really retiring or even slowing down, just ch-ch-ch- … you know what I mean!

I’m going to miss my students of course — especially the wonderful young people in my popular course on The Idea of Wine. That show will go on without me, however, because my colleague and fellow wine economist Professor Pierre Ly is taking over and adding his own twist. Pierre and his partner Professor Cynthia Howson have started up a research project about industrial upgrading in the Chinese wine industry — look for “guest post” reports here later in the  year.

I couldn’t give up working with students entirely, of course, so I have agreed to continue as the faculty advisor to the university’s Matelich Scholarship for dynamic young leaders. And of course I have my treasured network of former students, many of whom have ended up in the wine industry where, ch-ch-changing places, they now teach me as I once taught them.

I plan to take advantage of my new flexibility to travel and speak during parts of the year when classes would have previously kept me close to home. The first big trip is to talk at Savour Australia 2013 in September. There are plans to return to South Africa in 2014 and then … who knows? Any suggestions?

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Thanks to everyone who sent me congratulatory cards and notes. Sue and I appreciate your good wishes and look forward to seeing you along the wine road soon!

Christiane Amanpour and Chinese Wine: The Wine Economist Interview

I was pleased to be interviewed the award-winning  journalist Christiane Amanpour earlier this week for her  “Around the World with Christiane Amanpour” report on ABC.com.  The original topic was set to be last week’s French wine auction, where odd lots and “too-expensive-to-serve” bottles from the Elysee Palace cellars were sold off to pay for more modestly priced wines to serve at state events  (with a bit left over to pay down the French national debt).

The auction was a success (buyers snapped up wines that became famous by the publicity surrounding the auction), but Ms. Amanpour, perhaps sensing that this had already become old news, shifted the conversation to another wine topic.  Click on the image below to view the interview.

china

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Thanks to Mary-Rose, David and of course Christiane Amanpour for their work on this interview.

Extreme Wine South Africa: VinPro Information Day 2014

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be returning to South Africa early next year to speak at VinPro Information Day on January 23, 2014. (You can read the agenda for the 2013 Information Day program here.)

VinPro, the service organization for 3600 South African wine producer members, announced yesterday that it will merge with Wine Cellars South Africa, creating a unified wine industry organization.  I’m honored to be invited to speak at the first Information Day program for the combined group and I look forward to meeting everyone and sharing what I know about global market developments while learning more about the dynamic Cape wine sector.

My previous visit to South Africa (to attend Cape Wine 2012 and give the keynote at the Nederburg Auction) was eye-opening — my only regrets were that I didn’t have more time to visit and study the different regions and that Sue wasn’t able to join me. Both of these concerns will be addressed this time as we will spend a couple of weeks touring before Information Day. Still not enough time to do justice to the Cape Winelands, but a big improvement!

We are just beginning to plan our visit. Use the comments section below or write to Mike@WineEconomist.com if you have suggestions of where we should go and what we should do.

Thanks again to VinPro for this opportunity. Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at VinPro Information Day 2014.

Books Covers, Best Sellers and Great News about Savour Australia 2013

The conventional wisdom disagrees, but I say what’s wrong with judging a book by its cover? People judge wines by their labels all the time!

OK, so maybe it is a bad idea as a general rule, but I encourage you to make an exception for my next book, Extreme Wine, which is sailing smoothly towards its October 2013 release date.

Check out the recently-finalized cover– pretty cool, huh? Hope readers will think that the book is as good as the cover that embraces it!

Best Sellers Are Made Not Born?

Since  Wines Wars was such a success, we naturally have high hopes for Extreme Wine.  Wine Wars in its three editions (hardcover, paperback and eBook) has consistently appeared in Amazon.com’s various specialized best seller lists (such as the top 100 globalization books, for example), but didn’t bust through to the really big New York Times kind of league tables. Tough to break into the really big leagues, I guess.

In reading about how the best seller lists work, I discovered that there are some techniques to “game” the best-seller rating system. Some unscrupulous authors and publishers, for example, have apparently purchased large volumes of their own books all at once — creating the sort of sales bump that pushes a book onto the big time lists — only to cancel the order or return the books after ratings have appeared. Mission accomplished, so to speak, and a phantom best-seller created.

Clever, I suppose. But not very ethical. I would never do anything like that (even if my credit card had enough head room to allow me to place such a big order).

A Not Entirely Unethical Experiment

But there’s another technique that is also strategic but not entirely unethical. It involves Amazon.com pre-orders. Apparently all of the pre-orders on Amazon are processed together on the day that a book is released — giving that same sales bump as the phantom strategy, but based upon actual orders, not fake ones. I guess that’s why some of my author friends encourage their readers to pre-order.

I wonder if it would work for Extreme Wine? If you’d like to participate in an experiment to find out, click here to visit the Amazon.com page for Extreme Wine  where you can pre-order the hardback (you’ll have to wait for the Kindle version). It’s just a social media experiment, you see, not really Shameless Self-Promotion as you are probably thinking!

Savour Australia 2013: Australia’s Global Wine Forum from Wine Australia on Vimeo.

Savour Australia 2013

Speaking of Shameless Self  Promotion, I’d like to announce that I’ve been invited to speak at Savour Australia 2013, Australia’s first global wine gathering, which will happen in Adelaide in mid-September.

You can learn about Savour Australia 2013 by clicking here or watching the video above. The purpose of the program, as I understand it, is to re-launch Brand Australia onto the global wine markets — to replace the down-market Yellow Tail sort of  image that evolved over the last dozen years with an up-beat, up-market narrative that connects Australian wine with its regions, food, culture, people, and links it all to wine tourism, which is the best way to have the complete experience.

I think the message is exactly the right one for Australia today and I am looking forward to being part in the discussion.

Here is Your Chance to Tell Me Where to Go!

Sue and I will be staying in Australia for a couple of weeks after Savour Australia 2013. Where should go and who should we visit? If you have suggestions please leave a comment below or email us at Mike@WineEconomist.com.

Looking forward to seeing you at Savour Australia 2013!

Extreme Wine Update and Wine Economist Milestones: Make My Day!

Extreme Wine Update

I only have time for a quick update this week — my next book Extreme Wine has gone into production, so I’m busy with the copy-edited manuscript and reviewing potential cover designs.  Those of you who simply can’t wait for this sequel to Wine Wars can already pre-order Extreme Wine  on Amazon.com — and be very sure to receive it on or before the October 16, 2013 official publication date!

Wine Economist Milestones

Meanwhile The Wine Economist blog has passed a few milestones, publishing its 350th post last week. That adds up to over 300,000 words or more than three book-length publications (a metric that makes sense because I sometimes use this blog to work out ideas for my books).

WordPress.com, the company that hosts this blog, reports that The Wine Economist has had more than 650,000 visits since the first post in May 2007. More than 1600 readers either subscribe to the blog or follow via the Facebook page.  Readership is up again this year, with an average of more than 20,000 visits per month so far in 2013.

Who Knew?

Who knew that so many people would find something to like in a blog about the economics of wine? Now if everyone would just pre-order a copy of Extreme Wine — that would really make my day!

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