Wow, the Coalition for Free Trade has shut down. That’s great news, kind of anti-climactic, actually, but of note - a sign of how far things have progressed since CFT formed in 1995 - a real milestone.
CFT, a non-profit organization seeking judicial relief from laws prohibiting direct-to-consumer
shipments, was the litigation part of the wine industry’s three pronged strategy that also involved lobbying - Wine Institute - and public relations, i.e. Free The Grapes!
CFT just announced it has ended all activities after achieving victories for wineries and wine lovers.
|Many people in the wine industry today probably don’t realize that CFT did a lot of heavy lifting|
Back in the early 1990s, the organized opposition to direct shipping by wholesalers ramped up. Wholesalers got Kentucky and Florida to pass laws making shipping wine to consumers a felony. Yes, direct shipping wine was made a felony! Felons aren’t allowed to operate wineries.
At the time, there were fewer than a dozen states where a winery could legally ship to consumers, and that was through a limited system of “reciprocity” with California and select states that had been negotiated by the California Wine Institute.
Over the next decade, CFT helped coordinate lawsuits in seven states. Cases from Michigan and New York – where the states allowed intra-state shipments from wineries to consumers but denied that same privilege to out-of-state wineries—were ultimately considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2004. The court found that the practice violated the Commerce Clause.
CFT’s work wasn’t finished after the Supreme Court ruling. The wheels of litigation and state law turn slowly. In light of the Granholm decision, a number of states enacted capacity caps on out-of-state shipments that essentially banned direct shipping anyway.
Just today, there’s news about new guidelines for wineries shipping to Massachusetts. That state just opened up - a big deal for wineries - and this was made possible by recent changes to state law that are a result of litigation.
Other organizations like Family Winemakers were involved, but many people in the wine industry today probably don’t realize that CFT did a lot of heavy lifting. Between 1995, when CFT was founded, and today, the number of U.S. wineries increased from less than two thousand to more than eight thousand, the lion's share of which depend on direct sales. Think of all the fulfillment houses, compliance companies, and even software vendors that didn’t exist back then.
“We have so many positive examples of what it’s done in terms of consumer access, collecting taxes and fees,” said Dennis Cakebread of CFT's board. “(Direct Shipping) isn’t the boogie man it once was. Just think how much the internet’s grown up over the last 15 years.”
There are details involved in keeping a non-profit going. With its mission arguably accomplished, it was apparently time to dissolve CFT.
It doesn't neccesarily mean an end to litigation. Wineries could always pool resources and launch a new non-profit. Also, with retailers facing hurdles in places like New York, litigation involving consumer-direct wine shipping will likely continue. One difference with the issue of retail shipping, though, is that in-state retailers haven't suported the rights of out-of-state retailers to ship. Local wineries in various states supported opening their borders to wineries located outside of their states.
Here's a video that just went up regarding a petition to extend the eastern boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, which TTB put out for comment. The video was posted by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance, which opposes expanding the appellation.
John Sebastiano Vineyards and Pence Ranch Vineyards proposed expanding the established AVA.
Back in January Bentley University released survey results detailing the way Millennials think of their workplace and careers. This infographic has made the rounds recently, and provides a good insight into the minds of the next generation workforce.
For more information on the study and results, click here.
A video by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, filmed on location on the North Fork of Long Island. This introductory video to the Long Island wine region includes interviews with Anna Lee Iijima, Contributing Editor at Wine Enthusiast; Thomas Pastuszak, Wine Director at The NoMad; Rich Olsen-Harbich, Winemaker at Bedell Cellars; and Kareem Massoud, second generation Winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards
At the inaugural Rootstock event, hosted by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers on Thursday, Nov. 13, Central Valley Builders Supply demonstrated several electronic pruners. These pruners are capable of increasing productivity, protecting workers' health and cutting costs in the vineyard.
For more information on electric, hand-held pruners, please see Bill Pregler's Product Review here.
Winejobs.com released a report detailing wine job posting trends as of October 2014. As the wine industry’s leading online job site, Winejobs.com has a unique vantage point over industry trends. The Winejobs.com index indicates that job postings increased 6 percent from October 2013. The index is up 15 percent so far this year.
The October increase in job postings was driven by hospitality and winemaking jobs. The hospitality index increased 73 percent from its level in October 2013, and is up 26 percent for the year.
The winemaking job index rose 43 percent from its level in October 2013, and is up 26 percent year-to-date.
The sales and marketing index decreased 23 percent from its level in October 2013, and is down 10 percent year-to-date.
Nielsen released sales figures for the top 100 premium wine brands based solely on closure type, showing significant improvements for wines sealed with a natural cork. Since the start of 2010, the volume market share for wines closed with cork rose 29 percent. Alternative closures also saw an increase, but of 9 percent in the same time period. While the numbers do not necessarily mean that consumers are making their purchase based solely on closure type, the data does show an improvement in sales of wine closed with cork.
Trend Analysis of Case Sales for Top 100 Premium Brands
When breaking out case sales by closure type and top brands, those finished with a natural cork have seen significant improvement in volume moved.
The top 10 brands finished in natural cork performed better in both volume movement and sales compared with the top brands closed with synthetic. Eight of the top brands closed with cork saw an increase in case sales and nine saw an increase in revenue, averaging an 8.9 percent increase in volume and an 8.5 percent increase in value. For synthetically sealed brands, six of the top 10 brands saw a decrease in volume, however the average across all 10 remained an increase of 1.3 percent. In dollar sales, another six percent saw a drop in revenue, though as a group, it was up 1.1 percent.
However, the total cases sold in the 52 weeks leading to Sept. 13, 2014 were much higher for synthetic cork—about 5.57 million to natural cork's 4.3 million cases.
Sales by Price Point
For the four week period ending Sept. 13, Nielsen figures show that cork closures out-performed synthetics and screw caps in the $10 to $15, $15 to $20 and the over $20 categories. Synthetic-closed wines saw a slightly higher revenue than its natural counterpart, with just over $35,000 in the $6 to $10 range.
November 7 is International Merlot Day, and what better way to celebrate it (without a glass in hand) than by learning about the various techniques winemakers in Napa, Long Island and Washington are using to erase the stigma surrounding the much maligned varietal.
In the January issue of Wine Business Monthly, Lance Cutler's newest installment of the Varietal Focus series will focus on how nine winemakers craft the perfect Merlot. Below is a preview of the article, just in time for #MerlotDay!
To read the full article when it hits doorsteps on January 1, subscribe to Wine Business Monthly here.
Merlot is a dark-skinned grape variety that is used both as a blending grape and a stand-alone wine varietal. Merlot grows most famously in Bordeaux, France, and it is by far the most-planted variety of that famous region. In fact, the variety is so popular all over the country that France grows more than two thirds of the world’s Merlot.
Merlot buds earlier and ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is susceptible to shatter in bad weather during flowering, and its thin skin makes it vulnerable to Botrytis bunch rot if there is too much rain or moisture. Merlot grapes tend to be large and hang in loose bunches. It tends to have higher sugar than Cabernet Sauvignon along with less tannin and lower malic acid levels.
Because Merlot is grown all over the world and can put out large crops, while still producing wines that are supple, fruity and lacking astringent tannins, many producers have used the variety to produce inexpensive, innocuous wines. These wines lack complexity and interest, but they are soft and undemanding. Millions of cases of undistinguished Merlot have flooded wine markets for years, and critics have rightfully chastised these wines as dull and bland. This Varietal Focus concentrates on what makes Merlot special: well-made, challenging wines that offer bold fruit character, lush mouthfeel and good tannic structure.
Merlot can set large crops, especially after a good flowering season. Regulating crop size seems to affect quality in a good way. The vines thrive in well-drained soil. Merlot is notorious for approaching full ripeness and then stalling in sugar production, only to quickly over-ripen in the face of warm weather. This ability to achieve full physiological ripeness has led to two primary styles for the wine. The New World style emphasizes ripeness, inky color, full body and lush tannins. Flavor profiles lean toward plum and blackberry. A more traditional style involves picking at slightly lower sugars trying to maintain acidity. The resulting wine is medium bodied, with lower alcohol and more red fruit character like raspberries. These wines can also exhibit leafy, vegetal notes or earthy, black tea aromas.
Merlot is grown all across the globe, including countries as diverse as Italy, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Greece, Hungary, Mexico and South Africa. It is the second most-planted grape in Israel and can be found in Turkey, Croatia and Slovenia. In the United States, California and Washington have had the most success with the variety, but even Long Island, New York is having a successful go with it.
In Bordeaux, Merlot is used primarily as a blending grape where it lends suppleness, ripe fruit character and a more generous mouthfeel to the more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon or the leaner Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank of the Gironde River, in Médoc and Graves, Merlot usually comprises less than 25 percent of the blend. On the Right Bank however, in St. Emilion and Pomerol it usually makes up the majority of the blend, often with Cabernet Franc as the other main player. Merlot is also grown in Provence, the Loire Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Merlot is prolific in warm climates, but does better in cooler regions. It is grown all over California, and the wines can range from fruity and simple to ripe, mouth filling, supple monsters. It does very well in Washington, where it is the second most widely planted red grape. The state’s long days and cool nights help produce a wine loaded with rich fruitiness, but retaining a firm structure. The very special seashore conditions on New York’s Long Island lend their Merlots an almost saline character along with dark fruit and black tea flavors.
Napa Valley has long been renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, but it has produced wonderful Merlots for decades. Renée Ary submitted the legendary Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot. Tom Rinaldi, who helped make Duckhorn legendary, gave us his Provenance Vineyards Merlot. Steve Burgess added his family’s Triere Estate Vineyard Merlot. Three celebrated Washington winemakers, all of whom were essential to the varietal’s success in that state participated. Mike Januik contributed his Merlot from the renowned Klipsun Vineyard. Casey McClellan brought his Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot and Kevin Mott added Woodward Canyon’s Columbia Valley Merlot. Long Island has hung its hat on Merlot as its best red wine. Rich Olsen-Harbich shared his 30th Anniversary Merlot from Bedell Cellars. Barbara Shinn and David Gates brought their Nine Barrel Reserve Merlot. Anthony Nappa submitted his Reserve Merlot from his eponymous winery.
During the month of October, Envolve Winery supported National Breast Cancer Awareness by donating $5 of every purchased bottle of Envolve Rosé and Brut Rosé Sparking Wine and donating 50% of each event ticket sold to the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation (SVHF). Envolve hosted its 3rd Annual “Real Men Drink Pink” event on October 10 at the Sonoma Valley Women's Club, the flagship event of its October fundraising campaign supporting breast cancer awareness. Envolve raised a total of $3,000 for the hospital this year through ticket sales, bottle sales, raffle prizes and donations. The proceeds help local uninsured and underinsured women receive free mammograms.
Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation Executive Director Selma Blanusa with Envolve family and friends Leah Norton, Danny Fay, Colette Fay and Kate Benziger.
Next Tuesday, November 11 at 10 a.m. PT, Shipcompliant is hosting a 90-minute online seminar where you will get the latest tools and industry insights to move forward confidently with your 2015 direct sales program.
Hear from industry experts about the latest legislative changes, get tips on how to streamline your year-end compliance reporting and learn about the latest reporting innovations that will make your life easier.
-New direct shipping opportunity in Massachusetts - changes to take effect on January 1, 2015
-How to meet Indiana's stringent new e-filing requirement
-How would the Marketplace Fairness Act affect wineries?
-Other regulatory updates and trends from around the industry
-AutoFile, an innovation that reduces time and headaches involved in reporting and tax payments
-Tools and tips for streamlining your end-of-year reporting