Wine, Politics and Business

It’s easy to forget that the consumption of wine is not just a gustatory experience but also a very real business.  How big?  According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, the world consumed 32,000,000,000 (32 billion) bottles of wine in 2015.  Two recent news items brought home that this business is not only international but also very local.

I’m guessing some of the vintners and farmers in the Aude region of France might be secret (or maybe just unintended) Donald Trump supports.  Just like The Donald, they very strong opinions about a Hispanic neighbor to their south, believing that nothing good could come from that region.

The difference is the identity of the despised country.  For Donald, it’s Mexico and Mexicans.  For Aude farmers, it’s Spain and Spanish winemakers.

The Aude region runs along the northeastern border between Spain and France.  Many Spanish winemakers ship their bulk wines through France to be distributed throughout Europe and worldwide.  Well, the folks in Aude don’t appreciate 1) the Spanish wines being cheaper than wines from Aude, and 2) the Spanish wines being trucked over French roads.

One solution promoted by Trump, that of a wall separating the two countries, is not available to the agitated French.  So, they took matters into their own hands.  In early April, as reported by Wine Spectator, “a 150-strong gang of irate French winemakers hijacked five tanker trucks and dumped their contents—90,000 bottles’ worth of Spanish bulk wine—all over the road.” 

Maybe Donald could adopt that strategy.  Perhaps he could hijack trucks coming from Mexico loaded with tortillas and dump those on the road?

The other news item concerns Wally’s Wine, based in Los Angeles.  In 2013, Wally’s founder, Steve Wallace, sold the venerable wine retailer to the Marciano brothers, the founders of fashion powerhouse, Guess. 

When Wallace owned the store, he occasionally conducted wine auctions in conjunction with New York-based auctioneer, Zachy’S.  A month after the purchase, the new owners hired “the whole senior management team of Zachys Wine Auctions” as reported by the L A Times to open its own auction house to compete directly with its former partner.

Apparently that effort faced too many challenges.  Wine Spectator reports that the majority of the Wally’s Auction staff have been laid off and auctions suspended.  There’s talk about maybe joining up with an unidentified “international company” but little details are available.

Wine – a worldwide business that can have intense local impacts.

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