Daily Swill for February 5

Daily Swill for February 5

The west coast ports (e.g. Long Beach, Oakland) have been problems for importers/exporters for the past half year, but apparently it is getting really bad. I am sure the port operators are just looking for ways exert pressure on the longshoremen to force the negotiation process. Why it matters: for wine and spirits, a lot of product comes into the west coast ports. If they close, it will cause issues especially for California exports and for smaller importers that do not have as much flexibility / resources to re-direct imports through other ports around the USA. It is usually a short-term problem but it could become a major issue.

Epic Wine & Spirits has made a couple of moves in the past week. First, they added a notable Burgundy producer in Albert Bichot. Then they added Wilson Artisan Wineries. Wilson is a company that has been rolling up boutique producers, mostly in Dry Creek. No doubt Bill Foley (the new owner of Epic) respected this strategy. Why it matters: California is the largest wine market in the USA and probably one of the largest in the world. It is dominated by two distributors – Southern Wine & Spirits and Young’s Market. Wine Warehouse is a key competitor but smaller. The rest of the competition is smaller and fragmented. Bill Foley and Epic seem to be trying to join the big boys.

I mentioned this project a couple times in the past couple days, but it looks like it is going to be a contentious “battle” for the Wagner Family and Sonoma residents. As I mentioned, I think this is relevant because Meiomi is one of the hottest brands out there right now.

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Daily Swill for February 3

Daily Swill for February 3

The Wagner Family wants to build a winery on a bucolic stretch of land. While this type of news seems to come out at least weekly, the interesting part to me is that the Wagner Family is definitely in serious growth mode. Considering the buzz and heat around the Meiomi brand, that isn’t surprising.

Is there a correlation between the drought and wine pricing? The CEO of Naked Wines thinks so. Considering they a fair amount of bulk wine, I am inclined to believe him. That said, I think the drought will impact the 2014 vintage and I am guessing that the true economic impact hasn’t been felt in the bulk wine market (maybe in the bulk grape market?) I did just receive an offer from a high-end winery indicating that their vineyard yields were lower partially due to the drought. It will be interesting to watch the impact if we have a long-term drought because it will have a larger impact on plantings and vineyard management.

Utah… oh Utah, one day you will embrace the sinners that provide revenue to your state budget. If you ask producers that do business in all 50 states, they will likely say Utah is the hardest state to do business with. It is too bad because there are wine consumers that want to buy wine and it is a robust economy.

Is now the time for consolidation in the wine industry? This M&A advisor (self-interest?) thinks the UK drinks business is ready for consolidation. The analysis says that ~15% of beverage businesses are having financial issues. My question would be, isn’t that normal for this industry?

CA wine industry calls out British Columbia on its new grocery wine-selling laws. If you read the laws in more detail, it is just a win for the BC wine producers, not the wine industry as a whole. That said, even if CA wines were allowed on the grocery shelves, they would not do as well as they do in other markets because of the onerous import tariffs. Protectionism.

Strike and Techtel shares the results of the TTB’s 2014 review. What I found interesting is that the rate of non-compliance appeared to be lowest for wine. I wonder if that is based on higher tax consequences in liquor/beer or some other reason.

The Distilled Spirits Council put out a press release highlighting its growth. Surprises: they are taking share from beer even with the growth of craft beer. Not surprises: whiskey is driving the growth.

Chinese investors own 100+ chateaux in Bordeaux. What is interesting: most of the wine is going back to specific areas of China. Much like the Chinese domestic wine production, it sounds like the distribution and retail game is regionalized.