European Wine Economists Meeting Update

The European Association of Wine Economists is meeting this June and they’ve asked me to post details about the sessions, which sound very interesting and worthwhile.

You can find current information about the meetings by clicking on this link. Here is the program for the conference, which I copied from the website. Take a look at what’s on offer this year.

Wednesday June 4, 2014

14:00 Registration
14:30 – 15:00 OPENING
15:00 – 16:30
Keynote 1: Antoine BAILLY - Univ. de Génève, CH
“Wine and Divine: from Bacchanals to Prohibitionism”
Keynote 2: Jon H. HANF – Universität Geisenheim, DE
“Pay what you want – A New Pricing Strategy for Wine Tastings? “ ( joint paper with Oliver GIERING )
16:30 – 17:00 Coffee break with signing of the book “Wine Economics” by the editors
17:00 – 18:30
Keynote 3: Johan SWINNEN – LICOS, KU Leuven, BE
“The Rise and Fall of the World’s Largest Wine Exporter and its Institutional Legacy” 
(joint paper with Giulia MELONI)
Keynote 4: Ricardo SELLERS-RUBIO, Univ. Alicante, SP
“The Economic Efficiency of Wineries of Protected Designations of Origin” (joint paper with Francisco MAS-RUIZ)
18:30 – 19:00 Signing of the book “Wine Economics” by the editors, welcome drink
20:00
Thursday June 5, 2014
8:15 Inscription and coffee
SESSION 1

8:30 – 10:30 WINE as INVESTMENT and INVESTMENT in WINE
chaired by

Foreign Direct Investment in the Wine and Spirits Sector 
J. François OUTREVILLE 
HEC Montréal, CA
A Barrel of Oil or a Bottle of Wine: How do Global Growth Dynamics Affect Commodity Prices? 
Serhan CEVIK , Tahsin SAADI-SEDIK
International Monetary Fund, US
History and Rational Market Values of French Vineyards,
Optimal Financing of the Vineyard in the Major Countries of the Euro Zone. (EN)

Historique des valeurs de marché et raisonnée du vignoble français. Financement optimal du vignoble dans les principaux pays viticoles de la zone euro. (FR)
Alain DALLOT 
Consulting actuary graduate in viticulture-oenology, FR
Long-run Relationships between Prices of Fine Wines and Stock Market Indices 
Jan BENTZEN , Valdemar SMITH
Aarhus Univ., DK
Wine and Gold as Alternative Investments: Which one is the Best? 
Beysül AYTAC , Thi Hong Van HOANG, Cyrille MANDOU
Groupe Sup de Co Montpellier Business School, FR
Wine Funds – An Alternative Turning Sour? 
Philippe MASSET , Jean-Philippe WEISSKOPF
Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, CH
Wine – Investment: A Profitable Alternative Investment or a Simple Long Term Pleasure? 
Marie-Claude PICHERY , Catherine PIVOT
LEDI Univ. de Bourgogne & Centre Magellan, Univ. Jean Moulin – Lyon 3, FR

10:30 – 11:00Break “Mâchon” (typical morning snack in Lyon)

SESSION 2a

11:00 – 13:00

PROSPECTIVES & STRATEGIES
chaired by

Prospect (Perspective) of a Strategic Option of Developing and Boosting the Algerian Vineyard 
Nasser SARAOUI 
Institut technique de l’arboriculture fruitière et de la vigne, DZ
Trade Liberalization in the Presence of Domestic Regulations:
Likely Impacts of the TTIP on Wine Markets
 

Bradley RICKARD , Olivier GERGAUD, Wenjing HU
Cornell Univ., US & KEDGE- Bordeaux Business School, FR
Towards Sustainability in the Wine Industry through Engineering and Management Tools 
Stella Maris UDAQUIOLA , Rosa RODRIGUEZ, Susana ACOSTA, María CASTRO, María Verónica BENAVENTE, Marcelo ECHEGARAY, Ricardo SIERRA
Instituto de Ingeniería Química – Universidad nacional de San Juan, AR
Wine as a Cultural Good: Stakes of a Recognition 
Véronique CHOSSAT , Cyril NOBLOT
Univ. de Reims, FR
How to Improve Wine Quality? The Challenge facing South African Cooperatives 
Joachim EWERT , Jon H. HANF , Erik SCHWEICKERT
Univ. Stellenbosch, ZA & Univ. Geisenheim, DE
Price or Quality Competition? Old World, New World and Rising Stars in Wine Export 
Diego LUBIAN, Angelo ZAGO 
Università degli Studi di Verona, IT
Winners and Losers in the Global Wine Industry 
Geoffrey LEWIS , Tatiana ZALAN, Matthew SCHEBELLA
Melbourne Business School, Torrens Univ. & Univ. South Australia, AU
SESSION 2b

11:00 – 13:00

 

GASTRONOMY, TESTING and HEALTH 
chaired by

Restaurants and BYOB: What Do Consumers Expect and Who Are They? 
Nelson A. BARBER , D. Christopher TAYLOR
Univ. New Hampshire & Univ. Houston, US
The Profiles of Worldwide Gastronomy 
Quentin BONNARD , Christian BARRÈRE, Véronique CHOSSAT
Univ. de Reims, FR
Analysis of Consumers’ Sensory Preferences of Nanche (byrsonima crassifolia) Liquor in the South of the State of Mexico. 
Erandi TENA, Javier J. RAMÍREZ, Jessica AVITIA , Tirzo CASTAÑEDA
Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, MX
Evaluation of the Influence of the Interaction tannin-anthocyanin over the tannin-protein Binding and its Effect on the Perception of Astringency in Red Wines 
Marcela MEDEL , Alvaro PEÑA, Elias OBREQUE, Lopez REMIGIO-LOPEZ
Facultad de Ciencias Agronomicas & Faculta de Medicina, Univ. Chile, CL
Gastronomic Supply and Touristic Clientele 
Christian BARRÈRE , Quentin BONNARD, Elsa GATELIER
Univ. de Reims, FR
Is a Sequential, Profiling Approach useful for Predicting Match Perceptions in Food and Wine? 
Robert HARRINGTON, Lobat SIAHMAKOUN, Nelson A. BARBER 
Univ. Arkansas & Univ. New Hampshire, US

13:00 – 14:00Frugal Lunch

SESSION 3a

14:00 – 16:00

WINE PRODUCTION and MARKETS in the WINE VALUE CHAIN
chaired by

Comparison of Selected Determinants of Chosen European Wine Markets 
Helena CHLÁDKOVÁ, Sylvie FORMÁNKOVÁ , Pavel TOMŠÍK
Mendel Univ. in Brno, CZ
Tournament Mechanism in the Wine-Grape Contracts:
Evidence from a French Wine Cooperative 

M’hand FARES, Luis OROZCO 
INRA Toulouse, UMR AGIR: Univ. de Toulouse, LEREPS, FR
Unperceived Costs: A Dilemma for French Wine-Growers 
Joëlle BROUARD, Benoît LECAT 
School of Wine and Spirits Business & ESC Dijon/Burgundy School of Business, FR
Adaptation to Climate Change in the French Vineyards:
An Innovation System Approach (EN)
Etudier l’adaptation aux changements climatiques des vignobles français:
une analyse par les Systèmes d’Innovation 
(FR)
James BOYER, Jean-Marc TOUZARD 
INRA, UMR Innovation Montpellier, FR
Characterization of Chilean Bottled Wine Market 
Miguel A. FIERRO , Rodrigo ROMO
Universidad del Bío-Bío, CL
Producer Single Commodity Transfer: A Comparison of Policy Intervention Between Wine and Other European Agriculture Products 
Davide GAETA , Paola CORSINOVI
Department of Business Administration, Univ. Verona, IT

 

SESSION 3b

14:15 – 16:00

WINE EDUCATION and WINE PREFERENCES
Chaired by

Are Today’s Consumers Ready to Buy the Wines of Tomorrow? (EN)
Les consommateurs d’aujourd’hui sont-ils prêts à accepter les vins de demain ? (FR) 

Alejandro FUENTES, Eric GIRAUD-HERAUD , Stéphanie PERES,
Alexand re PONS, Sophie TEMPERE, Philippe DARRIET
INRA et GREThA, Bordeaux Sciences Agro & ISVV, Univ. de Bordeaux, FR
The Impact of General Public Wine Education Courses on Consumer Perception 
Richard SAGALA , Paolo LOPES
École In Vino Veritas, Montreal, CA & Kedge Business School, Bordeaux, FR
Contributions of Experimentation in the Study of Reception in Communication Science: The Case of Wine Labels (EN)
Apports de l’expérimentation dans l’étude de la réception en SIC :
le cas des étiquettes de vin (FR)

Mihaela BONESCU , Diana BRATU, Emilie GINON, Angela SUTAN
ESC Dijon Bourgogne, FR
Controlling for Price Endogeneity: A Case Study on Chinese Wine Preferences 
David PALMA , Juan de Dios ORTÚZAR, Gerard CASAUBON, Huiqin MA
Pontificia Univ. Católica de Chile, CL & China Agricultural Univ., CN
Young Urban Adults’ Preference for Wine Information Sources:
An Exploratory Study for Republic of Macedonia
 

Hristo HRISTOV , Aleš KUHAR
Biotechnical Faculty Ljubljana, SI
“In Vino Veritas”—But what, In Truth, Is in the Bottle?
Experience Goods, Fine Wine Ratings, and Wine Knowledge 

Denton MARKS 
Univ. Wisconsin-Whitewater, US
The Need for Information of the Wine Consumer after the Purchase of the Wine (EN) 
Le besoin d’information post achat du consommateur de vin (FR)

Frédéric COURET 
Bordeaux Sciences Agro Univ. de Bordeaux, FR

16:00 – 16:30Coffee break16:30 – 17:30General Assembly VDQS20:00

Friday 6 June, 2014
SESSION 4a

8:30 – 10:30 WINE TOURISM, WINE CONSUMPTION and the HISTORY of WINE
Chaired by

The Douro Region: Wine and Tourism 
João REBELO , Alexandre GUEDES, José CALDAS
Univ. Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro & Turismo do Porto e Norte de Portugal, PT
Traditional Wine Taverns and their Hard Landing in the 21st Century:
The Case of the Viennese Heurigen 

Cornelia CASEAU , Albert STÖCKL and Joëlle BROUARD
Groupe ESC Dijon Bourgogne, FR & Fachhochschule Burgenland, AT
Consumers’ Intentions to Purchase Greek Bottled Wine
Athina DILMPERI , Martin HINGLEY
Lincoln Business School, UK
‘Dry Enough to Wash your Hands in’: The English Taste for Champagne, 1860-1914 
Graham HARDING 
Univ. Cambridge, UK
Liastos Oinos Siatistis: Where the Enthusiastic Present Meets the Glorious Past
Georgios MERKOUROPOULOS , E BATIANIS
Center for Research & Technology – HELLAS, Regional Admin. of Western Macedonia, GR
Seatbelt Use Following Stricter Drunk Driving Regulations 
Scott ADAMS, Chad COTTI , Nathan TEFFT
Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Connecitcut, & Washington, US
Interest of Italian Consumers for a Sustainable Wine 
Chiara CORBO, Martina MACCONI , Giovanni SOGARI
Univ. Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, IT

 

SESSION 4b

8:30 – 10:30

WINE MARKETING, Selected Aspects
Chaired by

Retail Channel Selection on Wine by Households in Argentina 
Gustavo ROSSINI , Rodrigo GARCÍA ARANCIBIA, Edith DEPETRIS
Universidad Nacional del Litoral, AR
Vinsseaux Traditionel: The Branding of Canadian Sparkling Wine 
Doris MICULAN BRADLEY , Donna LEE ROSEN
George Brown College, CA
The Consumer Trail: Applying best-worst Scaling to Classical Wine Attributes 
Fernando NUNES , Teresa MADUREIRA, José Vidal OLIVEIRA
Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo & Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, PT
Presentations of Packaging Quality Wines:
Semiotic Analysis of Bottles of the Top 100 Wines from “Wine Spectator”,2008 – 2012 (EN).

Les présentations packaging des vins de qualité: Analyse sémiotique des bouteilles du top 100 du “Wine Spectator” de 2008 à 2012 (FR)

François BOBRIE 
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société-Poitiers; Laboratoire CEREGE, FR
Difference of Representation and Choice of Burgundy Red Wines from the Upstream vs Downstream Actors of the Wine Sector 
Monia SAIDI , Georges GIRAUD
UMR CESAER INRA – AgroSup Dijon, FR
Wine Distribution Channel Systems in Mature and Newly Growing Markets:
Germany versus China
 

Tatiana BOUZDINE-CHAMEEVA, Wenxiao ZHANG , Jon H. HANF
KEDGE Business School, FR & Geisenheim Univ., DE
Attitudes Towards M-Wine Purchasing. A Cross-Country Study 
Jean-Eric PELET, Benoît LECAT , Jashim KHAN, Linda W. LEE, Debbie VIGAR-ELLIS, Marianne MC GARRY WOLF, Sharyn RUNDLE-THIELE, Niki KAVOURA, Vicky KATSONI
Univ. Nantes, ESC Dijon, FR; Auckland, NZ; KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE; Univ. KwaZulu-Natal, ZA; California Polytechnic State Univ., US; Griffith Univ., AU; Technological Educational Institute of Athens, GR

10:30 – 11:00Break “Mâchon” (typical morning snack in Lyon)

SESSION 5a

11:00 – 13:00

BUILDING PERFORMANCE and EFFICIENCY
Chaired by

The Market Structure-Performance Relationship Applied to the Canadian Wine Industry 
J. François OUTREVILLE 
HEC Montréal, CA
Wineries’ Performance, Response to a Crisis Period 
Juan Sebastian CASTILLO-VALERO , Katrin SIMON-ELORZ, Ma Carmen GARCIA-CORTIJO
Universidad de Castilla la Mancha & Universidad Pública de Navarra, ES
Quality Improvements and International Positioning of Chilean and Argentine Wines 
Fulvia FARINELLI 
UNCTAD, CH
Winegrower or Winemaker? Influence on Business Efficiency in Burgundy 
Georges GIRAUD 
AgroSup Dijon, FR
Institutional Drives of the Success of the New Wine World. Factors Influencing Technical Efficiency of Wine Production and its Relation with Wine Exports Growth 
József TÓTH , Péter GÁL
Univ. Budapest, HU
Creating Jobs from New Investment in the Wine Sector 
Martin PROKEŠ , Pavel TOMŠÍK
Mendel Univ. Brno, CZ
Terroir and Sustainability: The Role of Terroir in Sustainable Wine Standards 
Shana SABBADO FLORES 
Instituto Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, BR

 

SESSION 5b

11:00 – 13:00

WINE CONSUMPTION, Selected Aspects
Chaired by

The Importance of Wine Region and Consumer’s Involvement Level in the Decision Making Process 
Teresa MADUREIRA , Fernando NUNES
Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, ES
We Should Drink no Wine before its Time 
Leo SIMON , Jeffrey LAFRANCE, Rachael GOODHUE
Univ. California at Berkeley, US; Monash Univ., Victoria, AU & Univ.C. Davis, US
An Analysis of Alcohol Demands in Japan 
Makiko OMURA 
Meiji Gakuin Univ. Tokyo, JP
The Effect of Wine Culture on the Relationship between Price, Consumption and Alcohol-Related Problems 
Damiana RIGAMONTI , Frédéric LAURIN
Aarhus Univ., DK & Univ. Quebec, CA
Segmenting Greek Wine Consumers Using the Best-Worst Scaling Approach: New Results and Comparison across 11 Countries 
Dimitrios ASTERIOU , Costas SIRIOPOULOS
Hellenic Open Univ. & ; Univ. Patras, GR
Wine and Women: A Focus on Feminine Consumption of Wine 
Stefania CHIRONI , Marzia INGRASSIA
Univ. Palermo, Department of Agricultural and Forestry Science, IT
A Comparative Study of Demand for Local and Foreign Wines in Bulgaria 
Petyo BOSHNAKOV , Georgi MARINOV
Univ. Economics Varna, BG

13:00Awards of VDQS13:30 – 14:30Cocktail with snacks14:30

 Saturday June 7, 2014 – Tourism around Lyons

Disintermediation: How Many People Did It Take to Make Your Wine?

How many people does it take to produce a case of wine?  Well, it depends on how you look at it — and the number may surprise you.

When you think about all of the steps in the process from vineyard to cellar to bottling line and so forth, it seems like a lot of different people must be involved although the degree of labor-intensity necessarily depends on many factors. Where wages are high as in Europe and the United States, more of the steps are likely to be mechanized compared with Chile or South Africa, for example.

And there are economies of scale at certain production levels. But it still seems like lots of hands are needed to produce a bottle of wine.

(In The Wine Economist’s very first post, I counted about  twelve workers needed to simply bottle a vintage of Fielding Hills wine.)

So how man of these  people will a winery end up employing? All of them, you  might think, if you have that romantic image of an estate winery stuck in your head, where all of the production from vines to wines to finished product takes place on the same property.

Specialization and the Division of Labor

But this picture ignores the fact of disintermediation, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Disintermediation is basically Adam Smith’s theory of specialization of labor applied to the entire product chain. Instead of specialization within a business (specialized vineyard labor and cellar crews, for example) you have different businesses specializing in each function within the process. That traditional estate winery is deconstructed into perhaps a dozen different specialized business units.

Thus, for example, many wineries rely upon outside contract labor firms to maintain the vineyards and harvest the grapes and thus do not have such workers listed directly on their payrolls. Many also contract with mobile bottling lines to handle that important function. And of course buying grapes is a way to disintermediate compared to growing them yourself and buying wine from others takes desconstruction one additional step.

With product chain disintermediation, the number of people actually employed by a winery can be surprisingly small with that tiny workforce specializing  in coordinating the various firms and contractors that make up the links in the chain.

Small is Beautiful?

How small can the  winery staff be (which is another way of asking how far can you push disintermediation)? Well, the data provided in Wine Business Monthly’s annual  “Review of the Industry” issue (February 2014) gives us a glimpse at how disintermediation is working in the American wine industry. Here are WBM’s data for the 30 largest wine companies in the United States.

Rank

Wine Company

U.S. Production

Number of Employees

1

E&J Gallo Winery

80 million cases (US, estimate)

85 million (global, estimate)

4000

2

The Wine Group

57.5 million

1000

3

Constellation Brands

50 million (US)

64 million (global)

6000 (global)

4

Bronco Wine Company

20 million

n/a

5

Trinchero Family Estates

18.5 million

1000

6

Treasury Wine Estates

15.4 million (US)

32.1 million (global)

1140 (US)

3600 (global)

7

Ste Michelle Wine Estates

7.5 million

800

8

DFV Wines

7 million

600

9

Jackson Family Estates

5.5 million

1000

10

Diageo Chateau & Estates

3.8 million

2700 (US & Canada)

11

Viña Concha Y Toro (Fetzer)

2.7 million (US)

30 million (global)

308 (US)

12

Korbel Wine Estates

2.3 million

450

13

Bogle Vineyards

1.7 million

95

14

CK Mondavi Family Vineyards

1.6 million

120

15

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

1.55 million

250

16

Don Sebastiani & Sons

1.5 million

90

17

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

1.25 million (est)

n/a

18

Precept Wine

1.1 million

350

19

Foley Family Wines

950,000 cases (US)

1.45 million (global)

400

20

Rodney Strong Vineyards

820,000

164

21

Caymus Vineyards

800,000 (est)

n/a

22

Vintage Wine Estates

800,000

280

23

Boisset Family Estates

750,000 (US)

6.5 million (global)

n/a

24

Wente Vineyards

750,000

550

25

The Hess Collection

700,000

140

26

Mesa Vineyards

650,000

n/a

27

Domaine Chandon

625,000

217

28

Castle Rock Winery

550,000

9

29

Michael David Winery

420,000

150

30

Purple Wine Company

400,000

60

You can see that the degree of disintermediation varies quite a bit within the US wine industry with wineries of similar production size often directly employing very different numbers of workers (see Don Sebastiani & Sons versus J. Lohr)  and wineries with about the same direct payrolls pumping out vastly different amounts of wine (compare The Wine Group, Trinchero, and Jackson Family Estates).

Modesto’s Tight Ship

The most interesting winery from this standpoint is obviously Castle Rock, which sells more than a half million cases of wine but directly employs just nine people! Wow, that’s just amazing — about 61,000 cases of wine for each person on the payroll. Of course it takes many more people working for contractors and so forth to actually get the job done. Castle Rock is a disintermediation machine!

As the Wine Business Monthly profile of Castle Rock notes, the company does not own any wineries or vineyards. The original business model was based upon opportunistic bulk wine purchases that were then bottled by others and brought to market. Now the business is built around long-term contracts with vineyards and production wineries that also grow grapes and make wine for others. WBM reports that the portfolio includes about 20 different wines at any time, many of them relatively site-specific offerings.

What if giant Gallo embraced disintermediation to the same degree as Castle Rock? Well, the math is easy to do. Gallo makes about 150 times the amount of wine, so it might in theory be able to reduce its direct employment from 4000 workers to 9 x 150 = 1350 people on staff. I suppose that you could look at that number and conclude that Gallo is way over-staffed at the moment.

But I see it the other way. Given that Gallo does own wineries and other production functions that Castle Rock eschews, I’d say that folks in Modesto run a very tight ship!

American Wine Economists to Meet in Walla Walla — June 2014

The American Association of Wine Economists have announced a Call for Papers to be presented at their annual meeting, which will be held in Walla Walla, Washington this year.  Click on the links below for more details. Hope to see you in Walla Walla. Hope you enjoy this video, which is a good introduction to the Walla Walla wine story. Enjoy!
>>><<<
The 8th Annual Conference of the  American Association of Wine Economists AAWE  will be held from
 
          June 22-25, 2014 
   in Walla Walla, Washington.
Check the website for more information.
Please send a 500-word abstract to   aawe@wine-economics.org.
The submission deadline is March 1, 2014.

Economist Report: Bacchus to the Future?

Wine Economist readers might want to check out the current (November 30, 2013) issue of the Economist newspaper to see what they have to say about the changing (and  not so changing) world of wine. I’m talking about an article called “Bacchus to the Future” that is featured in the Technology Quarterly section of the newspaper.

The story is about technological advances in what outsiders might consider a very traditional business. Please follow the link to read the entire article. I will insert a few quotes just to tease you a bit.

Few industries are more suspicious of change than winemaking.

True, but not universally true.  My reading of wine history shows that sometimes technology is  embraced (the Gallos and Robert Mondavi are on my list of noteworthy innovators) and sometimes stubbornly resisted. Europeans were in denial for decades after phylloxera hit them. How long did they resist grafting their vines onto American rootstocks?

“Technology has vastly improved the low end,” says Tim Keller, a former winemaker at Steltzner Vineyards in Napa. “There’s no longer an excuse for making a defective wine.”

So true. I discuss  this in the chapter of Extreme Wine about the best and worst wines. Inexpensive wines might not be to your taste, but they consistently achieve a commercial standard and are unlikely to be the worst wines you will ever taste. A warm embrace of technology is part of the explanation.

Because consumers remain seduced by the notion that wine should be made by humble farmers with as little intervention as possible, fine-wine labels still try to keep their experiments under wraps. But they are quietly deploying technology in a new way: not just to make bad wine decent, or to make good wine more cheaply, but to make already-great wines greater still.

The article talks about de-alcoholization as one of the hidden technological innovations and I think most of us agree that this useful (and sometimes necessary) tool is generally kept out of sight. Other examples of widely used but invisible wine technology?  Two words: Mega Purple!

France is the undisputed global leader in wine technology. As Mr Merritt notes, the country has a greater demand for mechanisation than America because its agricultural wages are higher. And France’s reputation means that its elite winemakers, unlike those in other countries, do not have to worry about criticism from elite French winemakers.

This is a point that I haven’t considered before. Sorta makes you think, doesn’t it. And I guess that’s the point. Check out the article to see what else it has to say.

>>><<<

While you are thinking, you might give some thought to holiday gifts for your wine-loving friends. You can’t go wrong with my books, Wine Wars and Extreme Wine. Just a suggestion!

European Wine Economists to Meet in Lyons — June 2014

Update 17 December 2014. The date of this conference has changed — now scheduled for June 4-7, 2014.

Our friends at the European Association of Wine Economists have asked us to announce the “Call for Papers” for their upcoming annual conference. As you can see below, they are interested in broadening the academic discussion of wine economics to include scholars from other fields — a great idea! And Lyons is great location for wine and food. Interested? See details below.

call_1_EuAWE

  For more information please click through to these websites:

Vineyard Data Quantification Society – VDQS http:// www.vdqs.net

European Association of Wine Economists – EuAWE http://www.EuAWE.org

Society for Quantification in Gastronomy – SQG http://www.gastronometrica.org.

The Economic Origins of the Kosher Wine Conundrum

Wine Economist reader Rob Meltzer has been searching for drinkable kosher wines (and trying to understand why he wasn’t finding them)  and he has been kind enough to share his observations with me along the way. I found his methods rigorous and his analysis fascinating, so I asked him to summarize his research for publication here. Thanks to Rob for sharing his results with other Wine Economist readers!

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During the past year or so, I’ve tasted nearly 90 kosher wines priced between $20-$120 from the United States, Italy, Spain, Chile and Israel. My goal has not been to find the best kosher wines, but rather to determine whether kosher wines exist which could replace non-kosher fine wines in my cellar. From my days living in Northern California, I retain my passion for California reds, but I would prefer to keep exclusively kosher wines. Equally, I wanted to determine which kosher wines I could, with clear conscience, serve to guests in my home.

There are two primary determinants of kosher wines. First, the winemaker must be Jewish. Second, all kosher wines that are served in restaurants and catered events must be “mevushal,” which means that the wine has been boiled before being bottled. If you look at a bottle of kosher wine, you will see “mevushal” specifically referenced. Fine kosher wines exclusive for home consumption can be “non-mevushal.” The “P” next to the kosher symbol denotes that the wine may also be consumed during Passover.

The Search

The methodology of comparison was this: first, my friends and I tasted kosher wines within specific grape types to find the best within each category of grape for red and white. Most of the tastings were “blind.” Food pairings were always the same and the food was always kosher. The “best” kosher wine in each category was then compared to a non-kosher wine in the same category. By way of example, we tasted about ten kosher sauvignon blanc wines from various countries and in various price levels, and determined that Covenant’s 2012 Red C was really most drinkable.  Curiously, both the Red C and the runner-up were non-mevushal. (Red C seems to be going for a “hip” level of quasi-kosher; the label read “non-mev” instead of the usual “non-mevushal” statement.)

Red C was then compared to Honig’s Napa Valley 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. However, as drinkable as Red C was, it also did not compare well with the Honig, or other sauvignon blancs we tasted that day. (The tasting also included Domaine Serge Laloue Sancerre (France), Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) and Buitenverwachting (South Africa). The Chilean sauvignon blanc we tasted was so unremarkable it didn’t even make it to the tasting notes.

I also went to a number of public wine tastings of kosher wines. I quickly grew tired of having sub-standard product shoved at me, while the philanthropic donors who sponsored most of these events for charity rolled their eyes in ecstasy over glasses of brownish sludgy merlot at $120/bottle that would never be confused with a 2007 Duckhorn.

Failure and Success

I never did find a kosher red wine that seemed satisfactory in terms of both quality and price for the quality received. We had particularly poor luck with Israeli maker Barkan. Its Cabernet Sauvignon was an entirely undrinkable product. We tried everything from allowing it to breathe uncorked, to decanting, to the magical blender-aeration method, without any success. In fact, several of my tasters told me that Barkan normally tastes like that, and they couldn’t understand my complaint. If they are to be believed, they were regularly drinking something without complaint that tasted like vinegar. Poor quality vinegar, at that.

The best whites were non-mevushal. For what it’s worth, if I were interested in stocking only kosher wines, I wouldn’t buy non-mevushal wines, leading some to question the inclusion of non-mevushal wines in this survey. Surprisingly, the mevushal white table wines which scored consistently high in terms of quality and price-appropriateness came from Italian wine maker Bartenura.  Bartenura wines aren’t great, and they won’t be replacing my Napa and Sonoma bottles any time soon. Nonetheless, since they aren’t expensive, they could easily fill out the low end of the cellar quite nicely as a sort of kosher two-buck Chuck. Several of the Spanish cavas were equally good (try En Fuego, as an example of a drinkable Spanish Cava).

An Economic Vicious Cycle

I have several observations from all this. First, boiling wine is never going to be good for the product. Red wines seem particularly vulnerable to damage. The best reds and the best whites were not boiled. Second, the hindrance to a good kosher wine industry seems to be a marketing and economics problem; the percentage of people who drink kosher wines exclusively is very, very small. If you don’t or haven’t compared kosher wines to non-kosher fine wines, you probably don’t know what you are missing and you are unlikely to demand better product. Third, since the available offerings are small, people who really want kosher wine will buy and drink what is offered. Many times, the pricier red wines were found improperly racked at wine stores, and covered with dust. I suspect that the combination of wine-making methods and poor or improper storage explains the poor table experience. I’m also assuming that the boiling precludes proper aging after bottling.

One of the challenges being confronted by kosher wine makers is to find a way to make kosher wines mevushal by some other acceptable heating method that does not damage the wine. While I think this will ultimately solve the problem, the real issue is one of economics. Rather than make a wine that will satisfy the very small market of kosher wine drinkers, the wineries should focus on making fine wines for the broader market, while incidentally achieving the kosher designation. Just as kosher food products are mixed in to the non-kosher product at supermarkets, the day needs to come when Red C is found in the California whites section, not a kosher section. If you don’t keep kosher, you don’t go to that aisle and you would never see or try the product. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t keep kosher who heads to the kosher wine section first. Enlarging the market should naturally create the capital necessary for experimentation of new methods. There is no reason why a kosher wine should not be outstanding. While the industry is moving toward that grail, it’s not there yet.

Fly-over Vineyards: How Climate Change Redraws the Global Wine Map


There has been a lot of buzz about climate change and the future of wine recently, starting with a New York Times article on Sunday and spreading all around the web. Now there is a video to help us envision the research.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so a cool “fly-over” animation like the one at the top of this post must speak volumes (see this article about the video and the research behind it). As you circle the globe in the video, keep these color codes in mind so that you can interpret the images.

climate3

Bear in mind that forecasting is difficult, especially about the future, so projections shouldn’t be confused with fact. But quality wine grapes are sensitive to climate change as this chart from Bemjamin Lewin’s Wine Myths and Realities (see p. 79)  makes clear. Relatively small changes in average temperature can have significant impacts on vineyard patterns and, as the video suggests, the impact varies in different regions.

climate2

While the dramatic changes you see in the video may not happen, they certain could. And some of the possible climate effects go beyond the sort of changes that might be mitigated by adaptations and innovations in viticultural practices.

Food for thought.

Can Chile Break Out of the “Value Wine” Trap?

First of all let me say that I have nothing against wines that are good values. We all struggle to find wines that pass the “is it worth it?” test and Chile has for a long time been a reliable source of wines that answer this question in the affirmative.

But it is in Chile’s interest to be seen as more than just a good value supplier. So I was very interested when Wines of Chile asked me to participate in a blogger tasting stressing Chile’s terroir. I think that an emphasis on distinctive terroir is just what Chile (and Argentina and South Africa) needs to attract wine enthusiast consumers and clearly differentiate themselves from the bulk wine pack.

The Terroir Two-Step

Establishing a reputation for terroir requires two things. First, you have to actually have terroir, which is to say wines that really are reflections of particular and distinctive winegrowing regions or sites. And, second, you need to be able to communicate this to consumers. Absent the first factor it’s just marketing. Absent the second it’s an exercise in futility from a wine economics standpoint.

Wines of Chile provided us with a dozen wines (see list below) — three each Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon — and the opportunity to participate in an interactive video conference with Chilean winemakers hosted from Santiago by Fred Dexheimer (click here to view the video). I found the video conference to be very helpful and informative — the best yet! — both in terms of matching faces to wines and especially in unlocking details of the particular vineyard sites through Dexheimer’s probing questions.

Listening to the winemakers talk, it dawned on me that the rapid improvement in Chilean wines over the last decade derives from two sources. Improved winemaking is the first factor and the one that gets the most credit in discussions, but increased attention to matching particular varieties of wine grapes to particular sites is the under-rated other. This may be especially true for Carmenere, which was planted very widely back when it was mistaken for Merlot but that now is receiving more specific attention.

Taste the Terroir?

I organized two extended tastings to see if we could (1) detect the differences in terroir by tasting the wines and (2) find a terroir story in the wine marketing materials, especially the labels.

Sue and I were joined by Pierre, Cynthia, Patrick and Grant to taste the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and by Ron and Mary for the Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. I was especially interested in what university students Patrick (who wrote a paper on Chilean wine) and Grant (who studied abroad in Burgundy) would say about the wines. Here’s what we learned

The Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir tasting was very interesting. The wines were well chosen both to highlight differences — differences between the Chilean wines and those from other countries and differences among the wines themselves. Our reference point for New World Sauvignon Blanc is Marlborough and these wines avoided the “me-too” trap, presenting styles somewhere between New Zealand and France. Our reference point for Pinot Noir here in the Pacific Northwest is Oregon and the Chilean wines were very much darker and riper — so much so that Patrick wondered if he would recognize them as Pinot in a blind tasting.

All six of the wines at the first tasting came from cool climate sites, where altitude or ocean influences (or both) affected growing conditions. We could easily detect differences between the wines, but I will honestly say that we struggled to connect them to the variations in terroir. Some of the wines helped us a bit by providing detailed information about the viticulture on the labels, but some focused more on the winemaking rather than the terroir.  This was a very successful tasting in terms of quality of the wines themselves, but it left some questions unanswered.

The Mythbuster Test

The story was much the same for the Carmenere and Cabernet tasting. We enjoyed the wines a great deal, especially with food (tasty pampeana  empanadas), and some  wines were even better on the next day.  Each flight presented real differences in aroma, flavor and style, showing the diversity of Chilean wines at these price points.

Once again, however, we had mixed results in searching for the terroir connection. Some of the wine labels made a point to provide specific information about vineyard site and growing conditions, so the link between terroir and what was in the glass was quite clear. Other wines didn’t highlight terroir as much as history or winemaking techniques. A couple of the labels were printed in type so small or light that it was nearly impossible to know the marketing message (this particularly annoyed Sue, who is an inveterate label-reader). My trusty magnifying glass got a good workout trying to read the details.

Confirmed. Plausible. Busted. These are the available options on the Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters. I think our tasting panel was a bit divided in reaching a verdict about Chilean terroir. At least two tasters came to a “Busted” conclusion. They just couldn’t find the link they were looking for between the wines and their terroir and their advice to Chile is “don’t give up your ‘good value’ market position.” Most of the rest of us believed that it was “Plausible” that the distinct differences between the wines was due to different terroirs, but the connection was not strong enough or clearly enough explained to arrive at a “Confirmed” conclusion.

If the terroir story is important (and I think it is if Chile is going to upgrade its market position), then the wineries need to do a better job making the connection. I think Wines of Chile has provided a very good foundation, but the individual wine brands should take better advantage of the opportunity to promote the terroir factor. The labels of the San Pedro 1865 Sauvignon Blanc and the Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere get high marks for their terroir message, although the Carmen’s tiny type was difficult to read.

The Los Vascos “Le Dix” didn’t even try to tell a terroir story — the focus was all about selecting the very best lots and blending them. But it was a terrific wine — Ron’s favorite, I think — which suggests that while terroir is important, it isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only distinguishing characteristic.

Can “terroir wines” help elevate Chile’s international wine reputation? It’s a plausible proposition, but like most initiatives the key will be execution, especially coordination between Wines of Chile and key producers to provide wine enthusiasts with a clear and consistent message.

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Vina Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Casablanca Valley

100% Sauvignon Blanc / SRP: $12.99

 San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Leyda Valley

100% Sauvignon Blanc / SRP: $19.00

 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Colchagua Valley

100% Sauvignon Blanc / SRP: $25.00

 Emiliana Novas Pinot Noir 2010 Casablanca Valley

100% Pinot Noir / SRP: $19.00

 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2009 Casablanca Valley

100% Pinot Noir / SRP: $32.00

 Morandé Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009 Casablanca Valley

100% Pinot Noir / SRP: $17.99

 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2010 Cachapoal Valley

100% Carmenere / SRP: $22

 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2010 Apalta- Colchagua Valley

95% Carmenere 5% Carignan / SRP: $14.99

 Koyle Royale Carmenere 2009 Colchagua Valley

85% Carmenere 8% Petit Verdot 7% Malbec / SRP: $25.99

 Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Maipo Valley

94% Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Petit Verdot / SRP: $29.00

 Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Colchagua Valley

100% Cabernet Sauvignon / SRP: $19.00

Los Vascos Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Colchagua Valley

85% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Carmenere 5% Syrah / SRP: $64.99

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The photo shows (clockwise from top left) Grant and Patrick, Cynthia and Pierre, Mike’s magnifying glass and Mary and Ron. Thanks to Sue for the photos. Thanks to Wines of Chile for the wines and supporting material. Thanks to my research assistants for their feedback on the wines and marketing strategies.

Wine’s Future: Tight, Fat, and Uncorked

Hot, Flat, and Crowded was the title of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s bestselling 2008 book about the future of globalization (Friedman released an upgraded 2.0 version of the book in 2009 — times change, I guess).

Global climate change, the rising global middle class and population growth were the three key issues that he identified in the book, which advocated a “green revolution” that would renew America.

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria (excerpted on the book’s Amazon.com home page), Friedman exlains that

There is a convergence of basically three large forces: one is global warming, which has been going on at a very slow pace since the industrial revolution; the second–what I call the flattening of the world–is a metaphor for the rise of middle-class citizens, from China to India to Brazil to Russia to Eastern Europe, who are beginning to consume like Americans. That’s a blessing in so many ways–it’s a blessing for global stability and for global growth. But it has enormous resource complications …

And lastly, global population growth simply refers to the steady growth of population in general, but at the same time the growth of more and more people able to live this middle-class lifestyle. Between now and 2020, the world’s going to add another billion people. And their resource demands–at every level–are going to be enormous. I tell the story in the book how, if we give each one of the next billion people on the planet just one sixty-watt incandescent light bulb, what it will mean: the answer is that it will require about 20 new 500-megawatt coal-burning power plants. That’s so they can each turn on just one light bulb!

Recently I’ve been thinking about the “big picture forces” that are shaping the future of wine and Friedman’s unholy trinity keeps coming to mind. If the world is becoming hot, flat and crowded, then obviously these forces will affect the world of wine, too. But what other forces are involved? What are the key wine-specific factors that should be considered when looking to the future?

After giving this question some thought, I’ve settled on a trio of trends that are inspired by Friedman’s book and in fact overlap with his list just a bit. Over the next few weeks I’ll explore the the implications of a wine world that is Tight, Fat, and Uncorked. Here is a brief introduction.

Tight [Markets]

Wine markets go through the sorts of cycles that are so common with agricultural products. The Turrentine wine brokerage firm has formalized wine’s particular cycle in its famous “Wine Business Wheel of Fortune.”

The period of low and falling wine prices, which brought so many consumers into the wine market (and pushed some growers and makers out of it) has come to an end here in the U.S. and prices are on the way up. Markets have already started to tighten up and some are close to seizing up. The low price part of the cycle was unusually long (for reasons I’ll discuss in my next post) and the cycle’s tight turn may be long, too.

Tight markets will affect the whole wine supply chain and impact different parts of the market differently. We haven’t seen wine markets this tight in a while and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.

Thick Around the Middle

The World is Flat is the title of another Thomas Friedman book and when it came out I boldly declared it Globaloney (which is the title of one of my earlier books).

Friedman’s “flat” back then referred to global competition and the mythical “level playing field” where everyone competes with everyone else. Geography didn’t matter any more, Friedman seemed to suggest, because some smart guy in Bangalore could take your job in an instant by offering to do it better or cheaper or while you are asleep. The book was really a call for America to invest in itself — in education and technology — and the flatland analogy was supposed to motivate politicians and policymakers to take action.

When Friedman says the world is flat today, he means it in the sense of flat organizations. He specifically argues that the rising middle class around the world is a powerful force for change and this I believe is not globaloney, although I wonder if he would say exactly the same thing today, with the “occupy” movement still active and the gap between the 1% and the 99% so prominent in the public mind.

The world wine market isn’t getting flat so much as fat.  Even though the prices of some “1%” wines have fallen, there is still a gap big enough for the 99% to want to “occupy.” The impact of the growing global middle class will be very important in the long run. The wine market is becoming “fat” in the sense of being “thick around the middle” — middle class, middle market, middlebrow. That’s global trend #2.

Now Lose the Cork

The cork in question is a symbol of the practices and traditions associated with an aristocratic view of wine that will not be swept away but that will be joined by many other, more “democratic” practices as the era of tight and fat unfolds.

Generational transition, the adoption of wine by new global middle class consumers, the lingering impact of the economic crisis and America’s continuing recover from its Prohibition hangover will all play a part in this story.

Tight, Fat and Uncorked: if this sounds terrible for the future of wine, please relax. It’s not all bad (or good either), it won’t all happen at once or in the same way and it it’s not [just] about the wine.

I invite you to read along over the next few weeks as I try to work out these ideas in Friedman-esque style. I hope to benefit as I usually do from the comments, critiques and creative ideas of my readers.

The Real Dirt on the Parker Theory and Chateau Al Gore

The new issue of the Journal of Wine Economics (JWE) leads off with a fascinating article by Julian M. Alston, Kate B. Fuller, James T. Lapsley and George Soleas titled “Too Much of a Good Thing? Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California Wine Grapes.”  It’s the kind of wine economics research that makes me smile: rigorous, clever, relevant — and it even includes a poem! What could be better!

Demand-Side Explanations: The Parker Theory

The puzzle that the article examines is why sugar levels (measured in degrees Brix) have risen in California, taking wine alcohol levels with them. Sugar levels in white grapes grown in California increased 12% from 1980-84 to 2005-08, for example, with the average degree Brix rising from 20.7 to 23.2. Average Brix for red grape varieties increased from 22.2 degrees Brix to 24.3. Sugar levels in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes increased from 22.8 to 25.0 degrees Brix at harvest.  Higher sugar levels mean higher alcohol levels, all else being equal.

Two simple explanations are usually cited to explain the rising sugar/alcohol trend. The first is based on changes in demand. Robert Parker (and some other powerful wine critics) are said to prefer a certain style of wine that is riper. Sugar and alcohol levels have increased as wine growers have worked to produce the grapes that make the wines that most please the Golden Palate of Robert P. (or that otherwise appeal to changing consumer preferences).

Supply-Side Explanations: Chateau Al Gore

I call the second theory the “Chateau Al Gore” hypothesis because Al Gore is associated in popular culture with global climate change and that’s what this theory is about. Rising temperatures, according to this line of reasoning, produce riper grapes pushing up sugar levels, boosting alcohol.

It is pretty easy to line up facts to make a persuasive case for Chateau Al Gore. Temperatures as measured by a heat index have been rising in California, according to the article’s authors. Sugar and alcohol levels have increased, too. Although additional sugar may be welcome (the Parker principle), there are indications that producers would prefer lower levels. A good deal of wine in California is partially de-alcoholized, for example. Alcohol is removed from a portion of the vintage (using reverse osmosis or the spinning cone method I am told) and then the treated wine is blended back, reducing overall alcohol levels and allowing winemakers the opportunity to find the “sweet spot” alcohol level for their wines.

Some of the de-alcoholization may be motivated by federal taxes, which increase substantially on a per-gallon basis for wines that rise above the 14% ABV level. The extra 50 cents tax per gallon may not concern the makers of expensive wines like Screaming Eagle, but it can be a significant cost factor for bulk producters and thus worth the expense of alcohol reduction. In any case, the authors find that lower-priced grapes tend to have lower average Brix readings, which is consistent with the tax hypothesis but doesn’t prove it.

If alcohol levels of wine have increased even after partial dealcoholization, this suggests that rising sugar levels must be unwanted and this notion is at least partially confirmed by preliminary data reported here that many wineries under-estimate alcohol levels on product labels. The authors have obtained access to data from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (one of the largest wine merchants in the world), which show that the average stated alcohol level of California wine exported to Ontario was 12.63 percent in the sample period while the actual level was 13.35 percent. The gap is clear, but the authors suggest that more work is needed to fully understand it. I’ll be interested to read their final report.

Ceteris Paribus

The Chateau Al Gore theory seems pretty persuasive. Ceteris paribus (holding everything else constant) it makes sense that sugar and alcohol levels would rise with average vineyard temperature. The fact that winemakers work to offset the alcohol boost and maybe fudge it a bit (within legal limits)  on the label suggests that this is a climate change event that they struggle to contain.

But ceteris is seldom really paribus in wine. Employing multi-factor regression analysis, the authors find that the rising heat index is responsible for some of the increase in sugar levels, but not all of it. Put another way, climate factors alone are not sufficient to explain the total increase in sugar and alcohol. Other factors must also be at work.

Which pushes us back to the demand-side Parker Theory, but in a  usefully complicated way. It is important to understand how much the California wine industry has changed in the last 30 years. The type of wine produced has changed, for example, with varietal wine (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon) increasing faster than production of generic wine (“Chablis,” “Burgundy”). Varietal wines accounted for 71% of California production in 2000, according to the authors, compared to just 19% in 1985.

The move upmarket required different grape varieties of higher quality from different production zones. Thus while total California wine grape production rose by 60% in the survey period, the biggest increase (+185%) was in the Delta region (including the Lodi AVA) with the North Coast (including Napa and Sonoma Valleys) increasing by 128%.  Wine grape production in the San Joaquin Valley rose but by a much smaller amount. The southern San Joaquin valley accounted for just 30% of California vineyard acreage in 2008 (down from 50% in 1981), although it still produced more than 60% of wine grape tonnage because of higher yields.

So wine grape production has increased and also shifted in terms of desired quality, price per ton, grape variety and growing location. It is perhaps not surprising that average sugar levels would change too. Much of the growth in the California wine industry has thus been associated with the demand shift towards premium and ultra-premium wines and the rising sugar levels are to some extent associated with this “grape transformation” of the American palate. Robert Parker is part of this movement although I think it would be unfair to give him all the credit or blame for the changes noted here.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

So the JWE article finds evidence for both the demand-side and supply-side theories of rising sugar levels. But wait, there is more, including rootstocks (this is the “real dirt” in the title of this post).

Phylloxera struck California starting in the mid-1980s when the supposedly Phylloxera resistant AxR#1 rootstock was found to be susceptible to this root-sucking parasite. Eventually nearly all the vines affected were grubbed up and replaced with vines grafted to different (and hopefully more resistant) rootstocks. Several winemakers have suggested to me that the new rootstocks and associated changes in viticultural practices affect grape ripening — sugar levels peak before the desired flavor profile (phenolic ripeness) has been achieved. Longer hang times are needed to get the flavors right,  leaving wine growers with the problem of too much sugar and so forth.

The rootstock hypothesis is beyond the scope of the JWE study, but it indicates how complicated it can be to explain seemingly simple questions in wine economics and how much wine remains an agricultural product after all.

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I don’t think I’ve done justice to this research so I hope you will click on the link in the first paragraph above and read the study yourself.

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