Our Blood is Wine, directed by Emily Railsback, released by Music Box Films, 2018. Available as video-on-demand via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.
Our Blood is Wine is a fascinating look at traditional wine-making in Georgia (the republic, not the U.S. state) and how it survived the traumatic Soviet era to be widely celebrated today as a natural wine icon. This documentary has been made with the same restraint and respect for tradition that the Georgians use in making their qvevri wines. The wines let nature tell its story to a greater extent than most wines do. And the film lets Georgia tell its story in a very natural way, avoiding unnecessary intervention. Highly recommended.
I admit that I was a bit concerned when I learned about Our Blood is Wine. Georgia is unique and I worried that the film would treat it with the generic techniques that are so often found in wine films — sunny vineyard scenes, the changing of the seasons, pick-up trucks with faithful dogs. You know what I mean. These scenes are charming and beautiful, but they are clichés. They could be anywhere, so they end up being nowhere. Wine films are filled with them.
Georgia is different, special, so the film needed to be different, too. Sitting at a key geopolitical crossroads, Georgia has experienced invasion, occupation, and foreign rule repeatedly and yet somehow the people, their culture, Christian religion, unique language and alphabet, have all survived. Georgians are survivors and the same is true of their wines.
Our Blood is Wine shows the hard work and sacrifice of artisan winemakers in Georgia instead of sunny vineyard scenes. We travel along with Chicago-based sommelier Jeremy Quinn, our inquisitive guide, but he is not the star of this show. He usefully yields the screen to the Georgians who have created these wines, preserved the indigenous grape varieties, and crafted the fantastic qvevri themselves.
One thing that keeps the film moving is the fact that we mainly see people at work and often (as in a scene where several sweating shirtless men carefully move a large, awkward, heavy qvevri into place) the actions speak as loud as any words ever could. The hard work contrasts with the beautiful Georgian music that forms the film’s soundtrack.
The Soviet era, which the film shows through archival footage, was particularly hard on Georgian wine. Georgia-born Joseph Stalin made sure that he had a constant supply of good wine from his home region, but the rest of the country’s wine industry was not so lucky. Private vineyards were seized and industrial wine production replaced private cellars to satisfy undiscriminating palates elsewhere in the Soviet empire.
Traditional wine-making practices survived through home production and even today most Georgian families make wine for their own consumption, some of it very good. Georgian wine consumption is high by U.S. standards. The rule of thumb for a party is two bottles of wine for each female guest and three bottles for each male. The domestic industry is necessarily focused on export since it is hard to compete with homemade wine for local sales.
There are, as I wrote in 2016, three wine industries in Georgia today. Some large producers focus on sweeter wines (which can be very good) to sell to traditional Russian and former-Soviet markets. Another industry has grown up around exports of clean international-style wines made with indigenous Georgian grapes. And, finally, a relatively small craft industry exists to satisfy the growing global demand for the natural wines made in qvevri — traditional hand-made clay pots that are buried in the earth. These wines and the people who make them and love them are the focus of Our Blood is Wine.
Sue and I were delighted when, at the end of the film, the art of Georgian wine was driven home through the work of an artist who actually paints with wine and the juice of the grapes instead of oil or watercolor. Saperavi art? Could it be, we wondered? Yes! The artist was our friend Elene Rakviashvili, who helped us to learn about Georgian wine and culture when we visited in 2016.
Our Blood is Wine is worth seeking out for what it teaches about Georgia, history, culture, politics, and of course wine. One of the best wine documentaries of recent years.
I have been waiting for this day for a while! My new book Around the World in Eighty Wines is officially released today in hardback, e-book, and audio book formats. If you pre-ordered your copy it should arrive very soon. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it.
Actually, if you pre-ordered on Amazon.com you might already have your copy — those sneaky guys started shipping a few days ago. But the Kindle and audio versions are officially released today. Hooray!
A few early reviews have already appeared on Amazon and elsewhere. Many thanks to Tom Mullen for his favorable review on Forbes.com. I think Tom really captured the spirit of the book and I appreciate his kind words.
Sue and I have been on a wine-fueled adventure for the last several years, circling the globe to speak at wine industry conferences and to do research for The Wine Economist and my books. At times I guess we felt a little like Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, hurrying from one fascinating place to another.
And so, inspired by Jules Verne, I decided to collect our adventures in this new book. The book’s path and Jules Verne’s itinerary are a bit different, although they do intersect in several interesting places. Here’s a map of Phileas Fogg’s route in Around the World in Eighty Days, starting and ending in London.
And this is the Around the World in Eighty Wines route. London is the start and finish line for this race, too.
As you can see, the wine route is much more complicated. That’s because Jules Verne was interested in speedy travel, so straight lines and direct routes were best, whereas I am intrigued by the stories that wine tell us, and I am willing to go to some trouble to track them down. So detours, interruptions and a bit of back-tracking are inevitable.
A Surprise Plot Twist?
Fogg and I both face strict constraints, however. Eighty days. Eighty wines. And we both beat the odds to achieve our goals, albeit with the help of a last-minute plot twist that produces a surprise ending.
Surprise ending? Well, I told you I was inspired by Jules Verne, so I could not resist following his example to assure a happy ending for my readers just as he did for his. Can’t tell you what the plot twist is — it’s meant to be a surprise!
I hope you enjoy reading Around the World in Eighty Wines as much as Sue and I have enjoyed the journeys that produced it and the wonderful people we met along the way. Cheers to wine, travel, adventure, and Phileas Fogg!
We were sitting in the sleek, modern Vlassides Winery tasting the wonderful wines of Sophocles Vlassides and hearing his strong views on wine, Cypriot wine, and his own ambitious winery project, when it started to rain.
Weather can be complicated in these mountains and soon the sun began to shine through the showers creating first a simple rainbow, then a richer multicolored arc, and finally a pair of rainbows nestled together. From our winery perch we could see both ends of the rainbow (where pots of gold are said to rest) firmly rooted in the vineyards below.
Rainbow, vineyard, pot of gold — what a perfect metaphor for Cyprus wines, I thought. But the sharply analytical Sophocles Vlassides (who studied winemaking at UC Davis as a Fulbright Scholar) popped my mental bubble. Rainbows are pretty, but we were really looking at the wrong thing. If you want to understand Cyprus wine today, don’t look at the rainbows, look through them to the mountain across the valley.
If you look through the rainbows on Sue’s photo above you will see the remnants of dozens of terraces that once were planted to vines that, along with hundreds of similar vineyard areas, formed the basis of the great Cyprus wine boom.
The Surprising History of Cypriot Wine
I had never tasted a Cypriot wine before we arrived in Pafos for the Cyprus Wine Competition. You might not have tasted one either because most of the wines are consumed in Cyprus these days and only a trickle enters export market pipelines. But this wasn’t always the case.
Cypriot wines were once well known and some even famous in European wine circles according to the Oxford Companion to Wine‘s history. Pliny the Elder, the Roman “Robert Parker,” praised them, for example. Cyprus fell under Venetian influence for a time and its wines circulated widely. I have a reproduction of a book called Wines of Cyprus by Giovanni Mariti that was written to explain Cypriot wine to international consumers. It is dated 1772. and was first published in Florence.
Commandaria, Cyprus’s signature sweet wine, commands an important role in the country’s wine history. Indeed, Wines of Cyprus talks of little else. Along with Tokaj, Vin de Constance and a few other treasured sweet wines, Commandaria was a “King of Wines and Wine of Kings.” Ironically, my book was written during the period of Ottoman rule when the Cypriot wine trade and the industry itself slowly declined in importance.
Cyprus came under British administration between 1878 and 1960 (so UK electrical plugs are needed and autos drive on the left side of the road). Cyprus “sherry” became an important export during this period — we saw a few old bottles at the Cyprus Wine Museum in Erimi Village — but this trade has faded away, too.
Look Through the Rainbow
A variety of circumstances led to a boom in production and export of cheap basic wines and grape must concentrate (some of which was reconstituted and fermented as British wine) in the years after the British exit. The grapes to make these wines (international and indigenous varieties) came from the vineyards we saw (and many others like them) when we looked through the rainbow at Vlassides. Yields might have been high in those days, but it is pretty clear that production costs were high, too. No machine harvesting on steep terraced slopes.
The Cyprus export boom collapsed in two stages according to the industry people we talked with. Competition from cheaper New World producers such as Chile and Australia crowded Cypriot wine out of some markets. The collapse of the Soviet Union drained dry previously reliable Eastern European markets for basic wine. The Cypriot bulk wine boom went to bust.
A Quality Revolution
The movement from unmarketable quantity to desirable quality began in the 1980s, according to the Oxford Companion, led by the “Big 4” producers: KEO, SODAP (a cooperative), ETKO and Loel. Change accelerated after 2004 when Cyprus joined the European Union. Subsidies to cheap wine exports ended and uneconomic vineyards like the one we saw were grubbed up.
The contrast between past and future was clear to see as we talked wine with Sophocles Vlassides at his modern facility tasting the tense, structured wines that he makes from international varieties (perhaps reflecting his UC Davis training) and indigenous varieties, too. Sue and I took home a bottle of his excellent Syrah and Panos Kakaviatos, who was in our media group, opted for an unexpected Sauvignon Blanc.
What is the state of the Cyprus wine industry today? Are there pots of gold at the vineyard rainbow ends ? Or have I stretched this metaphor a bit too far? Come back in two weeks (after Independence Day) for observations and analysis.
In the meantime, here are some rainbows for you to ponder.
Més que un club is the motto of the Barcelona soccer team. Barcelona is more than a just soccer club, according to its ardent fans, it is a commitment to values that extend well beyond sports. During the dark years of Spain’s Franco dictatorship, supporting Barcelona was a way to make a pro-democracy (and pro-Catalonia) statement.
In 2010 I visited Sierra Leone with international development charity ActionAid. Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries and education is fundamental to improving lives. When I came back from the trip I suggested to two wine business friends that we create a wine brand and give all our profits to finance the building of primary schools. We set up the Millione Foundation, created the Millione brand, sourced a lovely lightly sparkling Rosé from Italy, and set about selling it.
So far we have financed the building of five schools, educating 1500 children. The more books and wine we sell, the more schools we will build.
This is obviously a very good cause and a great way for wine book buyers to support a worthwhile initiative. As I wrote in the final chapter of Money, Taste, and Wine: It’s Complicated, sometimes wine can be more than a nice drink. Sometimes it can help change the world one cork or glass at a time. I was talking about some inspiring initiatives we saw in South Africa and now Jerry Lockspeiser extends this model from corks and glasses to books. What a great idea.
Jerry at the book launch event at Daunt Books in London. Sold out 100 copies in an hour.
What about the book?
So what about the book? Lockspeiser is pitching his book to wine newbies — people who like to drink wine but don’t know much about it and want to learn more without too much pain. The book works for this audience — each brief chapter answers a typical wine question in two to eight pages and ends with a “one gulp” summary.
The goal is to make new wine drinkers more confident in their choices so that they enjoy wine even more. Jerry never talks down to the reader because, after all, everyone is a newbie at some point. Wine should make us happy and this book’s cheerful, helpful tone underlines that fact.
But Your Wine Questions Answered is not just for newbies. Jerry Lockspeiser knows wine and the wine business like the back of his hand and he knows how to talk about wine, too. Reading this book is like sitting down with Jerry and having him tell you about the world he knows so well in an informative and interesting way. This is so much more than a bluffer’s guide!
Here are a few of the chapter titles to give you an idea of the the questions that are answered here. Sometimes, as in the chapter on Cabernet Sauvignon, the initial question is just a way to open a door to larger issues (naming wines by their grape varieties, for example, as opposed to their region of origin).
WHAT IS CABERNET SAUVIGNON ?
WHY DO THEY SAY SOME WINES HAVE ‘A HINT OF GOOSEBERRIES’ ?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHAMPAGNE AND CAVA ?
WHY DOES FRENCH CHARDONNAY TASTE DIFFERENT TO AUSTRALIAN CHARDONNAY ?
HOW IS ROSÉ MADE ?
HOW LONG WILL WINE KEEP IN AN OPEN BOTTLE ?
WHY DOES WINE COST SO MUCH ?
ARE HEAVILY DISCOUNTED WINES WORTH THE FULL PRICE ?
WHAT IS THE BEST WINE ?
IS IT TRUE THAT ORGANIC WINE DOESN’T GIVE YOU A HEADACHE ?
WHY DOESN’T THE WINE I BROUGHT BACK FROM HOLIDAY TASTE AS GOOD AT HOME ?
DOES IT MATTER WHAT KIND OF GLASS I DRINK WINE OUT OF ?
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CHOOSE WINE IN A RESTAURANT ?
Every chapter gave me something new to think about or a new way to think about something I thought I knew pretty well. Your Wine Questions Answered is a great wine book. But it’s really more than a great wine book because of the ambitious school project in Sierra Leone and progressive values it supports. Available at Amazon US, Amazon UK and Waterstones.
The wine writers’ symposium has been going on for about a dozen years and it is an amazing experience. The idea is that you bring together a faculty of experience professional wine writers to teach, coach, mentor and help network a group of rising star wine writer participants. (This year’s “student” group was so well qualified that the student and faculty roles sometimes reversed — a good thing.)
The setting is fabulous. Classes and accommodations are at the Meadowood Resort, which is also one of the sponsors along with the Napa Valley Vintners association and the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Napa Valley campus. Bill Harlan of Harlan Estate wine fame co-founded Meadowood and actively supports this initiative. The CIA’s sponsorship derives from its wine education program for budding hospitality professionals.
People come to the symposium to learn to be more effective wine writers and especially to find ways to be more successful on the professional side of things — career development and income generation being important factors. Sue (who was a career and writing coach) and I (one of the speakers) came to learn more about how the wine writing business fits into the wine industry generally and of course to meet all the talented participants.
Reflecting upon four days of intense activity at Meadowood, the CIA Greystone and a tasting at the historic Charles Krug winery, I have come up with a list of five lessons we took away from this experience.
Lesson One: An Industry in Transition
The wine writing business (Jamie Goode would correct me here — the wine communicating business) is an industry in transition. Ironically, although wine is more popular and integrated into popular culture than ever, the number of traditional media outlets for wine writing has declined. There are fewer newspaper wine writing jobs, for example, and fewer newspapers, too.
There is more wine content available to consumers than ever before, but much of it is on the web and provided for free by both professional and amateur authors. Some of the amateurs are highly qualified, of course, but their freely provided content makes earning an income in this field more difficult.
The internet and the move to mobile communications are disruptive technologies generally and the wine writing business is no exception. That said, disruption creates both challenges and opportunities and the key lies in choosing a strategic response.
Lesson Two: How Wine Writers Are Like Actors
Wine writers are a little like actors from an economic point of view.The most commonly repeated line among aspiring actors, it is said, is something like “My name is Robert and I will be your waiter tonight.” Day jobs may suck, but having a secure source of income is very useful. Being an actor is hard. Making a living acting is even harder. Ditto wine writing.
A small number of wine writers do very well indeed! They work very hard and earn good incomes, achieve a certain level recognition and even celebrity. Most wine writers, however, work very hard and scramble to scrape together a living with multiple jobs and non-wine writing projects — the economic equivalent of an actor’s waiter gig.
Even the most successful contemporary wine writers pursue multiple disciplines, however, generating content for newspapers, television, the web and organizing sponsored tastings, wine classes, consumer programs and much more. Jancis Robinson used to jokingly refer to her wide-ranging set of activities as “the empire” although an economist would recognize it as a diversified business model built around a core expertise.
Hong Kong-based Jeannie Cho Lee MW’s “empire,” for example, includes books, university teaching, her food and wine website AsianPalate.com, a job advising Singapore Airlines on their wine selections, a television series, magazine articles and much, much more.
Support yourself with a single type of work (magazine editor? wine book author?)? Yes, it is done — Eric Asimov, the chief wine critic of the New York Times is an example — but that’s the exception not the rule. Need to create that diversified empire. And then hope for some luck, too.
Lesson Three: No Single Path
There is no single sure path to success in wine writing. Some of the top people in the field are Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers, for example, but others like Asimov are self-taught. That said, I noticed that a great many of the talented “students” were seeking WSET credentials. The detailed wine knowledge is important, of course, but this is also a way to signal potential clients of serious commitment, which is useful in a crowded and competitive marketplace.
It seems to me that many of the successful writers leveraged specific assets effectively. Jamie Goode was a successful science editor, for example, and the scientific foundation of his writing clearly differentiates his product. Decanter contributor Jane Anson’s deep knowledge of Bordeaux gives her a comparative advantage.
The day of the generalist (I am thinking of our fantastic keynote speaker Hugh Johnson, who seems to know everything about wine) seems to be passing or perhaps has passed as a business model.
Specialization is important, whether by market segment, winemaking region, or wine issue area. But, as noted above, the ability to make connections and to communicate across several platforms is also critical to success.
Lesson Four: Passion is Not Enough
The writers we met who seem to have the greatest success share drive and passion, but they are also strategic in the way that they invest their time and other resources, entrepreneurial in seeking out and making their own opportunities, and multidisciplinary. They leverage their core comparative advantage effectively to make themselves valuable to clients and readers, not simply to be more visible to the public.
Let me repeat part of that. They think about their clients and audiences and what they can do to create value for them. Then, of course, they have to persuade their clients of the return on investment and convince them to share some of those returns with them.
More work is needed to measure the value created by high quality wine communications and to distinguish it from freely available web content, for example. The statistics we heard about low and stagnant “dollars per word” freelance writing rates suggest that professional wine writing has low value, that its value is not widely appreciated, or perhaps that professional writers are in a weak negotiating position when it comes to writing fees. (Alder Yarrow argued that this is due to an over-supply of wine writers.)
Lesson Five: The Value is There
Ironically, even as the average return to professional wine writing has declined, its importance to the industry has actually increased as the wine industry becomes more competitive with other sectors that compete for sales and attention.
Wine writers tell wine’s story and story-telling is a valuable skill. Consumers do not just sniff with their noses and slurp over their tongues. Lots of things smell good or taste good. The key, it seems to me, is to engage the imagination and take wine enthusiasts on a journey and the people we met at Meadowood and others like them are skilled and valuable guides.
Or at least that’s the lesson I take form the substantial investment made by the symposium sponsors. Napa Valley Vintners, Meadowood and the CIA will get some direct publicity from the symposium itself (this column, for example) but the real payoff comes down the road as all the participants become more effective in their work and better able to tell the Napa Valley story and the story of wine more generally.
The sponsors actually kicked up the investment a notch this year. In the past most “students” paid symposium expenses while a small number received fellowships to offset cost. This year a new “all fellowship” model was rolled out, with fewer “students,” high admission standards, and full-tuition fellowships. Plans are coming together to build an endowment to sustain the full fellowship model into the future. I like the forward thinking behind this.
There was a lot to absorb at this conference and I am only scratching the surface here, but these are some of the things I think I learned at Meadowood.
Thanks the symposium’s organizers for inviting us to take part and to the sponsors for their generous support of the program. Thanks, as well, to all the Napa Valley wineries who donated the wines we used in classes and the meals and receptions. Shout-outs to so many including especially Jim Gordon, Julia Allenby, and Antonia Allegra.
Sue and I also want to thank Cain Winery for inviting us to an intimate dinner they hosted at Terra Restaurant in St Helena where we had a glorious meal and tasted Cain Five wines from 1986, 87, 97, 98, 2006, 07, 10, 11 and 2012. It was an awesome experience. Thank you!
Say, when is someone going to write a song about wine writing? Try substituting “wine communicator” into the song at the appropriate place and see if it works. Cheers.
Sue and I are in Napa Valley, California this week to participate in the 2016 Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Resort. The symposium is a project of Meadowood Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Culinary Institute of America. The theme this year is “Taste Locally, Publish Globally.” You can read the program here.
No Joke: Writing About Wine Business
Sue is a career and writing coach and I am going try to convince the participants to think seriously about writing about the wine business as well as more conventional topics such as wine-makers, wine regions and wine tasting. My talk is called “How to Make a Small Fortune Writing about the Wine Business.” The title, as you have already guessed, it a variation of the world’s oldest wine joke, which begins “How do you make a small fortune in the wine business?”
(In case you haven’t heard the joke (which seems unlikely) I will provide the answer at the end of this column.)
The symposium takes place in rather regal settings. The Meadowood Resort looks like a fantastic place (I’ve not visited before) and we have classes at Meadowood, the CIA Greystone facility (the historic Christian Brothers winery) and local wineries.
I have taught in many types of classrooms around the world (ask me about the Communist-era blackboards in an old university classroom building in Prague), but nothing as elegant as this!
Wine and the Dismal Science
And we are in rather illustrious company, too. Hugh Johnson and Jay McInerney are the headliners, but really all of the speakers and coaches are headliners in my book. You can see names, faces and read bios here. My talk is sandwiched between McInerney and the New York Times’s Eric Asimov. No pressure!
I am a little bit of a fish out of water here. I am not really a wine writer (I can see some of you nodding in agreement!). I’m an economist who studies and writes about the global wine industry and most of my talks are aimed at the industry audience. Wine and the dismal science — an unexpected pairing but a very interesting one.
Don’t get me wrong — I have no complaints about being included in this wine writer group. The perks of writing about the wine business are pretty appealing, including the chance to rub elbows with these wine celebrities and to learn from them and from everyone here like the student I hope ever to be.
I think everyone will have fun at the symposium but, returning to the theme of my talk, this is real business not a holiday junket. It is business to the participants, who make their living writing about wine. And it is all business for the organizers, too, who have a strong interest in nurturing wine communication.
Wine is all about telling stories, so how smart is it for the Napa Valley industry to invest in the story-tellers? Very smart and very forward-looking.
OK, here is the promised punchline. How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? You know the answer. Start with a big one!
2015 was a busy year here at The Wine Economist and 2016 is shaping up to be pretty interesting, too.
Looking Back at 2015
In January I spoke in the “State of the Industry” session at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Then we left for New York City where I spoke at “Vino 2015,” a conference and trade show organized by the Italian Trade Commission.
North to Alaska: I traveled to Juneau and Anchorage to give talks and do a fund-raising wine dinner for the World Affairs Council chapters in those cities. Then it was east to Boise, Idaho to speak at the Idaho Wine Commission annual meeting. Both Anchorage and Boise were surprisingly warm, but …
It was really really cold in Ontario when I visited in March to speak to the Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario meetings, but the people were warm and it was a great experience. Then a quick trip to Walla Walla to talk about wine industry at a regional business summit.
South to California in May, to speak at the Ramona Valley AVA symposium, then a fund-raiser for the Admiral Theatre Foundation in Bremerton along with my friends from Hedges Family Wines. Sue and I were delighted to be invited to the 50-year retrospective tasting of Oregon’s Eyrie Vineyards in Portland, too.
Italy and a Few Surprises
June’s highlight was lecturing at the Conegliano Wine School in Italy and visiting with winemakers in the Veneto and Friuli.While we were in Cormons I got word that around the globe in Yantai, China the Wine Economist had received the Gourmand International prize for the “Best in the World” wine blog. Incredible.
Back home it was north again in July, to speak at the British Columbia Wine Institute annual meetings, then south to Napa Valley to talk at the California Association of Winegrape Growers summer conference.
Two books came out in the fall, my newest volume Money, Taste, and Wine: It’s Complicated and the paperback edition of Extreme Wine.
We visited Barboursville Vineyards while in Virginia to meet with Luca Paschina and we were lucky to able to meet up with Marc Hochar in Richmond and taste some older vintages of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar on the same trip.
I spoke at the Seattle meetings of the Academy of International Business and then flew to Milan to participate in a discussion on sustainability organized in conjunction with the big SIMEI trade show there.
The year ended on a high note when we learned that Money, Taste, and Wine will receive the Gourmand International award for the year’s best wine writing in a U.S. book. As the U.S. winner it is a finalist for the “Best in the World” award to be revealed in Yantai, China in May 2016.
What’s Ahead for 2016?
The travel schedule is coming together for 2016. I am looking forward to going back to Sacramento at the end of January for my fifth year moderating the “State of the Industry” program at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
A few weeks later we will head to Napa where Sue and I are on the faculty for the Professional Wine Writers Symposium.
Then it is north to Anchorage for another World Affairs Council fund raising program before returning to Walla Walla for the big Reveal Walla Walla trade auction.
It looks like we will be going to Portugal in May to speak at a conference organized by Wines of Alentejo and later to Seattle for Riesling Rendezvous, an international conference sponsored by Chateau Ste Michelle and Dr Loosen.
That’s what’s on tap for 2016 so far, but the year is still young. No wait — it actually hasn’t even started yet. Who knows where the wine rivers and roads will take us.
That’s the look back and ahead. Hope to see you somewhere on our travels in 2016. In the meantime, cheers to all! And have a great New Year.
Sometimes I feel like I have been everywhere in the wine world to speak to wine industry groups, but the truth is … I’m not even close!
I’m pleased to report that Sue and I will be joining the faculty of the 2016 Professional Wine Writers Symposium, which will take place February 16-19, 2016 at the Meadowood Napa Valley resort. I will be speaking about the challenges and opportunities of writing about the wine business and Sue will serve as a writing and career coach, drawing upon her years of corporate communications experience and work as contributing editor of the Wine Economist.
We are honored to join this year’s distinguished faculty, which includes Hugh Johnson, Eric Asimov, Jeannie Cho Lee, Jamie Goode and … well the list goes on and on. Here’s how a press release describes the faculty.
Other faculty members featured at the 12th annual gathering include Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for the New York Times; Jay McInerney, author and wine columnist for Town & Country; Jeannie Cho Lee MW, founder of AsianPalate.com; Ray Isle, executive wine editor, Food & Wine; Doug Frost, wine author, educator and one of only four people in the world to hold both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier credentials; Jamie Goode, author, writer and founder of wineanorak.com; Virginie Boone, contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast; Mike Veseth, publisher of the Wine Economist; satirist Ron Washam, the HoseMaster of Wine; Esther Mobley, wine, beer and spirits writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Tilar Mazzeo, author of The Widow Clicquot and associate professor at Colby College.
The full program for the 2016 symposium has not yet been announced, but participants can expect an intense set of lectures, meetings, discussions, writing exercises, and one-on-one coaching sessions — plus the opportunity to taste great food and wine and get to know some luminaries of the wine world. The program emphasizes three subjects: the craft of writing, career advancement and wine knowledge.
This year’s symposium marks a transition toward a fully funded fellowship model (in place of the tuition charge of previous years) thanks to the generosity of Meadowood and the Napa Valley Vintners Association. Applications for the 30 fellowships are now being accepted with a November 1, 2015 deadline. Learn more at WineWritersSymposium.org.
As I noted last week, the American Association of Wine Economists are meeting in Walla Walla in a few days. I thought you might be interested in the full program, including papers, authors, activities and so on. Lots of interesting wine economics topics and ideas. Enjoy
JUNE 23, 2014 Whitman College, Maxey Hall
8:00 – 9:00
REGISTRATION, Maxey Auditorium Foyer
9:00 – 10:30 Room – Maxey Auditorium
Session #1A: Consumers & Markets
Richard Belzer (Regulatory Checkbook)
Leveraging consumer ignorance and information search costs to maximize profits in US wine ‘Flash sales’: a follow up
Linda L. Lowry, Robin Back (both University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Impact of farm winery legislation S 2582: an act relative to economic development reorganization on Massachusetts wineries
Marc Dressler (University Ludwigshafen, Germany)
Exploring success factors in export management – Results of a survey on relevance in the context of the wine business and performance of German producers
Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Philippe Masset (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland)
Using information about web searches to forecast auction prices of fine wines
9:00 – 10:30Room – Maxey 207
Session #1B: Tourism and Economic Impact
Chair: Luigi Galletto (University of Padova, Italy)
Christopher Lucha, Gustavo Ferreira, Martha Walker (all Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg)
Virginia wine tourism: a profitability analysis
Luca Rossetto, Luigi Galletto (both University of Padova, Italy)
Wine tourist profiles: a comparison between two wine routes in Veneto region
Theodore Lane (Western Regional Science Association), Bill Mundy (Bill Mundy Associates)
Walla Walla’s wine-based agro-industrial cluster
Martin Prokes, Kamil Prokes (both Mendel University Brno, Czech Republic)
Job creation by investing in the wine sector
10:30 – 11:00
Maxey Auditorium Foyer
11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey Auditorium
Session #2A: Coffee & FoodChair: Morten Scholer (International Trade Centre, Geneva, Switzerland)
Morten Scholer (International Trade Centre, Geneva, Switzerland)
Coffee: the product, the trade and comparison with wine
Samrawit Ebabe (Jimma University, Ethiopia)
Constraints to Ethiopian coffee exports from a supply chain management perspective
Peter Roberts (Emory University)
Product differentiation, pricing and fair trading in specialty coffee markets
Albert I. Ugochukwu University of Saskatchewan, Jill E. Hobbs. University of Saskatchewan
Food product authenticity in agri-food markets: implications for collective reputation
Bernd Frick (University of Paderborn, Germany), Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Laure Salais (Institut Paul Bocuse, France)
The demand for restaurants in Europe
11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 207
Session #2B: Trade and International I
Alejandro Gennari, Jimena Estrella. Xavier Brevet (both National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina)
Argentinean wineries’ strategies on export markets
Miguel A. Fierro, Rodrigo Romo Muñoz (both Universidad del Bío-Bío, Chile)
Characterization of the Chilean bottled wine market
Cynthia Howson (University of Washington Tacoma), Pierre Ly (University of Puget Sound), Jeff Begun (University of Washington Tacoma)
Grape procurement, land rights and industrial upgrading in the Chinese wine industry
Maryline Filippi (University of Bordeaux, France) Elena Garnevka (Massey University, New Zealand)
Exporting wine to China from New Zealand and from France. Strategies and perspectives
11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 307
Session #2C: U.S. Wine Market & Industry
Raphael Schirmer (University of Bordeaux, France)
Drinking wine in the United States of America (from 1850 to the present) through the New York Public Library’s collection “What’s on the menu?”
Jon H. Hanf (Geisenheim University, Germany)
Retail branding and its consequences on wine brands
Bradley Rickard (Cornell University), Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Hu Wenjing (Cornell University)
Trade liberalization in the presence of domestic regulations: likely impacts of the TTIP on wine markets
Robert Hodgson (Fieldbrook Winery)
The unimportance of terroir
12:30 – 14:00
14:00 – 15.15Room – Maxey Auditorium
Welcome and Introduction
Orley Ashenfelter (Princeton University)
Welcome and Introduction
Kevin Pogue (Whitman College)
The Terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area
The “Wine Economist World Tour” (my calendar of talks and book signings) is starting to fill up and the end of January 2014 looks like a particularly interesting couple of weeks. Lots of frequent flier miles — and maybe a bit of jet lag, too!
On January 23 I will be in Somerset West, South Africa to give the keynote at the Nedbank VinPro Information Day program. VinPro is a key service organization for 3,600 South African wine producer members. It strives to both represent the wine sector and to further its development. I’m pleased to be invited to speak to South African growers and producers at this important event.
Fast forward a few days and I will be in Sacramento, California at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the western hemisphere’s largest wine industry gathering speaking in two of the sessions.
On Tuesday, January 28 I will be moderating an afternoon panel on “Using Data for Better Decision-Making.” The premise is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure and many in the wine industry would benefit from a more systematic approach. Here is the official description of session.
This session will explore how to use data to better understand and run your business. Presentations will include operating and financial benchmarking data and how these data can be applied to your business for improved decision making. Attendees will hear how benchmarking data are gathered and analyzed, and what it means. A winery and a grower representative will provide examples on how they started measuring various forms of data, what tools they acquired or developed, and lessons learned. They will also share best practices and identify the biggest problem areas for good data measurement and use. The session will end with key takeaways to consider in implementing better data tools for your business.
Then on Wednesday I will be one of three speakers, along with Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates and Nat DiBuduo of Allied Grapegrowers of California, at the “State of the Industry” session (Extreme Wine readers will recall that I wrote about this event in Chapter 6).
The State of the Industry session will provide a comprehensive look at every aspect of the wine industry, from what’s being planted to what’s selling. This 2½ hour session features highly regarded speakers and delivers incredible value for attendees who need to understand the market dynamics of the past year and are seeking insight into the market trends that will define the year ahead.
My job will be to bring a global perspective to the discussion. It’s an honor to share the stage with Jon and Nat, who have both earned the respect of those of us in the industry. Looking forward to hearing their remarks!
Hope to see you in Cape Town or Sacramento or any of the other stops on the world tour!