Daily Swill for February 6

Daily Swill for February 6

Another relatively slow news day, so I thought I would start by talking about why I am writing this blog. A friend asked me the best question yesterday — she said, why are you writing this blog? Are there other blogs like it? How is it different? I love this type of direct question.

So to answer those questions — honestly, I am writing this blog to document my thoughts for people who might want to get a new perspective on wine news. I follow lots of blogs and get many newsletters related to wine, plus I have a Twitter feed filled with interesting personalities from wine. There are digests with links to lots of stories and a couple of good newsletters that do interviews/get “breaking stories” — notably Shanken News Daily and Wine & Spirits Daily. But as I sift through the various sources of wine news, I wanted one that called out the stories that spoke to me. And my goal is to call out those stories while also calling out why they matter.

For today, just a few stories:

Drizly is expanding its drinks delivery service to Baltimore. This isn’t that big of a deal as a stand-alone story but it is worth watching all of these businesses — Drizly, Lasso, Minibar, Booze Carriage, Swill — they are expanding rapidly and eventually there will be a shake-out. I don’t have any inside information but I would be interested in hearing about their long-term game plans. Are they planning to differentiate with superior superior service with their own fleets? Or will all of these virtual armies of drivers (Uber, Lyft, Postmates, SpoonRocket, Drizly, etc) use the same drivers and compete on some other plane?

At Unified, there was a session focused on the confusing array of regulations related to direct-to-consumer wine businesses. I didn’t attend the session but it sounds like a bunch of highly knowledgeable people reminding the attendees that the wine industry is backwards and you have to watch your back at all times. If you are wine supplier, you need to make a decision — are you going to follow the letter of the law or hope the TTB doesn’t catch you. While it is hard to feign innocence about shipping laws, the laws about usage of social media don’t make much sense. What to watch for: will the TTB update their regulations to add some common sense?

This may be personally more relevant but it is an interesting development — Dominio del Plata, one of larger wineries in Argentina focused on $10+ wines, has changed national importers. Dominio del Plata‘s brands – Crios, BenMarco, Susana Balbo – account for over 100,000 cases sold in the USA. Big changes like this don’t happen frequently because they are tumultuous for the brands. It would be interesting to see the data to determine if changes like this lead to long-term growth. When you change importers, you also change distribution networks. Most likely, the winery will lose significant sales in the first year because the existing distributors will replace their current placements of the wines with other wines they offer and it takes a little while for the new distributor to train its sales team and distributor sales teams. That said, Dominio del Plata and Folio must believe Folio’s distribution network is a better fit long-term and Dominio del Plata’s brands will benefit from being the only Argentine brands in the Folio portfolio. Note: I worked for Vine Connections, Dominio del Plata’s prior importer.

Long Pour: the 2015 SVB Wine Report

Long Pour: the 2015 SVB Wine Report

I spent some quality time with the Silicon Valley Bank report and the video release. This is one of those reports that requires a ton of work by Rob McMillan and his team. Even though many of the conclusions might seem obvious in hindsight, these conclusions are much more valuable when backed up with data.

I watched the presentation of the report with Paul Mabray, Glenn Proctor, Amy Hoopes, and Rob McMillan. They make some interesting points – here were my favorites:

  • Glenn seemed a little skeptical of the report’s predictions for high growth rates for $20+ wines in 2015. The logic for the SVB prediction is solid — growing economy, lower costs for consumers driven by lower oil costs, more disposable income, better quality imports because of currency advantages. I think the question is whether the people who have traded down in the past five years are trading back up or the report expects new entrants to the high price category. Glenn also talked about the high volume of bulk wine available, which will drive down pricing and potentially give more quality to the wines under $20. He called out the possibility of a small crop in the future on top of fewer vineyards in California — that could lead to an interesting situation in future years.
  • Paul called out his strong viewpoint that there are a lot of wineries that are not investing in their direct business. While the obvious impact is their lower ROI in DTC sales, the less obvious impact is they aren’t engaging and learning from their customers.
  • Amy called out the growing number of suppliers that are unhappy with their distributors. It would be interesting to find out why — is it related to perceived attention, payment issues, investment in their brands? Or are they more focused on craft beer and craft spirits? She later called out the importance of thinking about these non-wine competitors when developing the message for your brand.
  • They called out the impact of social apps like Vivino in enabling consumers to get their wine recommendations from each other. If wineries aren’t watching these conversations, they aren’t learning. Then, in contrast, the regulations around wine tourism are making it harder for wineries to engage with customers.

 

Here were the findings that they called out in SVB’s overview of the report:

  • We expect to see the third consecutive harvest of heavy yield across most appellations.
  • Sales growth finished strong in 2014 and we are predicting a breakout year of growth in fine wine category -14%-18% ranges in 2015.
  • While a large supply of wines in cellars could mean depressed pricing, 2015 will be a year of both volume and price increases in the fine wine segment.
  • Wines priced below $7 a bottle performed poorly both on and off premise in 2014. This poor performance is expected to continue in 2015.

 

Everyone should read this report, but watching the video is even better.