Sunday, December 28, 2008


So as always, I have more than a few opinions about the various goings-on in this business, mainly because in this strange little dichotomy of the Northern Kentucky market (being part of Cincinnati geographically yet not in relation to wine distribution). A lot has happened in not just the past year but ever since I joined Liquor Direct in 2002, far too much to encapsulate in this small post so I'll just hit the high (and low) points of this past year:

1. Consolidation. The trade mags and suppliers do't really see what the big deal is with consolidation, but in the interests of customer service, it's everything. Consoldiation on the supplier side of things (such as Constellation ending up with Hogue, Mondavi, Toasted Head, and many others, and the overblown merger of Southcorp and Beringer Blass yielding Fosters Wine Estates (that's everything from Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, and Souverain, to Penfolds, Rosemount and Lindeman's)) it means certain brands leaving a well-established good working relationship with a trusted distributor to a murky, bureacratic mess with a more ambiguous, more monolithic distributor. Sometimes, the reverse has happened. Or even more remotely, a brand has ended up in a smaller house, one that is more focused, less diversified, and able to better provide both service to the brand and the customer (that would be us). The dirty little secret of the consolidation game is the problems it poses with the consumer's tier, that of the retailer, is one that we folks on this end have to deal with every day. And those suppliers (importers, wineries, brokerages) don't even care.

2. Exclusivities. Thanks to the economy taking a plunge, I think those suppliers relying so heavily on exclusive agreements with a sole retailer (like French importers Kysela, Kacher and Ex Cellars, along with wineries such as Graham Beck, Quilceda Creek and Bridgeview) may be reexamining their current business models. Consumers what to be able to comparison shop for everything, INCLUDING WINE, and that can't be done in the context of exclusivity. I've half a mind to tell these whenever they come calling to buy their wares, to take a big ol' flying leap, but it all revolves around what our customers want. If they want these wines, then we'll get them if we can. If they don't, there are plenty other wines in the sea.

3. Local Wineries. From the time I arrived here at LD in 2002 till now, the amount of local wineries has exploded. It's phenomenal, considering that the focus of KY farmers was primarily tobacco. Yet with the way tobacco products are perceived today, many of these tobacco farmers are turning to grapes, and many of them are making some really good wine. Across the river, wineries like Kinkead Ridge and Henke are doing extraordinary things, impressing critics all over the country and even the world. Pretty cool stuff.

4. Wine Blogging. The new generation of spreading the love, passion and knowledge of wine is now in the hands of Wine Bloggers around the world. Wineries such as Twisted Oak, Hahn, Stormhoek and Chateau Beaucastel, as well as respected writers like Eric Asimov of the NY Times and Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast and the whole crew at Wine Spectator have embraced the new media. Local talent includes Michelle Lentz of My Wine Education, Tim Lemke of Cheap Wine Ratings, Mike Rosenberg of The Naked Vine, Jonathan Seeds of Best Drink Ever, and even up the road in Dayton, Ohio, renowned wine blogger Mark Fisher (the wine writer for the Dayton Daily News) have paved the way for an army of wine geeks (including us winos here at LD). We're all just at the ground floor, and it's only going to be one colossus of innovation.

5. Demand. Seems like everyone is drinking wine or at least trying wine these days. The desire to be more wine savvy is quite remarkable. And with so much information available these days, in print media, online, through tasting groups and various tasting events around town and throughout the country (and the world), it's no wonder wine continues to grow.

I am truly excited about what lies ahead in this industry. And 2009 promises to have even more remarkable surprises up its sleeve.

See you next year!

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