Reading wine blogs has become as much a part of my daily reconnaissance as picking up the newest print media, from Wine Spectator to the Wall Street Journal. Whatever information I can get from any source is of major benefit to me and my wine buying position because here in the Tri-State (the metro area of Cincinnati where Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana come together), it’s a dog-eat-dog world of wine retail; you always want to be first with something.
First of the items I came across was the unfortunate passing of Paul Avril, owner of famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer Clos des Papes. I am a big lover of the wines of this region, so the news was a big shock. Monsieur Avril spent a quarter-century elevating his family’s estate to one of the top wineries in the world, dedicating the estate to the perfecting of just one wine – no single-vineyard or reserve wines. Paul succumbed to a long bout with cancer. He will truly be missed.
Reading 1WineDude, wine blog of Joe Roberts, one of the coolest writers on the Web right now, he mentioned a recent post by renowned wine writer Alice Feiring, who while alluding to another writer’s lamenting of the state of PAID writing jobs disappearing, hinted that she may be hanging up her career very soon. The article is shocking, in that I don’t think I could think of a single wine writer not influenced in some way by Alice, including me. She has a phenomenal perspective on the wine world and the world in general, and her commentary would be missed deeply. Her post got me to evaluate my aspect in all of this, which is miniscule at best. I write a wine blog, as an extension of my position here at Liquor Direct, but also out of the sheer love of this business. I am truly blessed to have found this career path, even though I have no idea where exactly I will end up in the twilight of it all. While I do not get paid for this blog, I can technically quantify it as part of my job so thereby technically I do get something for it. Yet I also write this blog because ever since I was 10 years old, I have wanted to be a writer. Fiction, poetry, whatever – I have always wanted to write. The reality of that point is that you have to be extremely lucky to get a book contract or position with a magazine or newspaper these days, and even then, you may lose that job quicker than you could imagine thanks to the rotten economy right now. So I do this, not in hopes of scoring a big book deal a la Gary Vaynerchuk, but simply out of the love of writing. I hope that Alice will reconsider her stated intentions and continue to bless us with her wisdom. She is the faerie queen of this wine world, and bestows upon us a magic that only the truly impassioned can possess.
On the business aspect of things, the megacorps like Constellation Brands and Winebow continue to morph and change, with Constellation Brands jettisoning underperforming vineyards in Australia, and consolidating distribution into one wholesale house in most states. Winebow continues to grow, despite the economic downturn, adding famed Argentinean producer Catena to its non-Italian stable of brands. Sutter Home has entered into a marketing arrangement with Joel Gott which has unforeseen consequences on pricing in the future. Fosters Wine Estates has eliminated Seaview, a terrific Aussie sparkling producer, from the American market, as well as Yellowglen another sparkler from Down Under. Dead weight castoffs, mergers, and acquisitions, it's a brave new world.
As I patiently wait for my CSW test score, I wonder “what’s next?” and contemplate the continuous string of changes that occur almost daily in this industry. It’s a remarkable thing, change. My psychology professor would always tell us, “life is change, stagnation is death.” For nothing to change, and everything to remain the same, that is most certainly a death warrant. I used to think that was crazy talk, but now, I see, that’s just the way it is.