Most wine blogs can’t participate in Google’s AdSense network, perhaps the leading on-line ad service. That’s because, as I found out when I applied, we violate its terms of service: “We did not approve your application for the reasons listed below. Issues: Drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol, beer or tobacco. … Please remove all drug-related content from your site, then resubmit your application.”
But Google’s decision to ban wine blogs from AdSense goes deeper than that, speaking to the contradictions inherent in wine and alcohol 80 years after Prohibition, thanks to the NeoDrys, fear of underage drinking, and the three-tier system. Google doesn’t object to wine, as near as I can tell. It just doesn’t want to be responsible for someone buying it who might break the law, because that could lead to nasty publicity, lawsuits, and the besmirching of its good name. More, after the jump:
The wine business in 2014 won’t be so much about varietal or sweet, though both will matter. Rather, wine trends in 2014 will be about the continuing transformation of wine into a truly global business, focusing on:
? Increased retail availability — more wines in more and different kinds of stores, and especially grocery stores. This means attempts to change state laws where that’s illegal
? More consolidation among producers — not just the biggest getting bigger, the trend over the past decade, but consolidation among mid-sized wineries, which will be folded into companies specificially formed for that purpose.
? The growing importance of the consumer, who is beginning to drink what he or she wants and forcing the wine business to adjust, rather than the other way around.
Mixed in with this will be renewed attempts by the neo-Probhibitionists in goverment and medicine to reduce wine consumption. More, after the jump:
? Another view of terroir? Terroir, a French term that has no exact meaning in English, is something wine geeks love to argue about ? does it exist or not? Those of us who believe in terroir believe it lends a sense of place to the best wine, regardless of price. Anti-terroir advocates (yes, just like matter and anti-matter) say we ?re a bunch of old farts and that wine should be made to taste the best it can, regardless of terroir. The eminent Paul Lukacs offers a third view ? that, despite some truth, it ?s mostly a myth perpetuated by French marketers in the first third of the 20th century. That should give us something to discuss the next time Paul and I judge together.
? Another victory for the distributors: It ?s depressing, but someone has to keep track of this stuff. The Illinois legislature, no doubt acting at the behest of some of its biggest campaign contributors, has passed a law that strengthens the state ?s three-tier system. Three-tier are the alcohol regulations left over from Prohibition that prohibit consumers from buying wine almost anywhere but traditional retailers. The legislature passed the law because Anheuser-Busch bought a stake in its biggest Chicago-area distributor. The beer giant will now have to sell its share of the distributor. How silly is this? Like Ford being told by the Michigan legislature that it can ?t own one of its parts suppliers.
? For sale or not? The cyber-ether has been buzzing the past week or so with rumors that Wine.com, the largest Internet wine retailer and a friend of the blog, is for sale. Wine.com ?s boss has denied the rumors, saying the reports exaggerate the company ?s financial woes. Supposedly, Wine.com ?s private equity backer was unhappy with its performance and wanted out. Regular visitors here know the uphill battle legal Internet retailers face, thanks to three-tier, and Wine.com is no exception. It has to become a local retailer in many states in which it does business to comply with state laws, a costly and time-consuming effort. If its financial backers are unhappy, the question is not that they are, but why they expected anything else given the regulatory environment.
? The Federal Reserve and wine sales: This post, from Silicon Valley Bank ?s Rob McMillan, explains (in English, too!) what ?s going to happen to wine sales now that the Federal Reserve is going to do less to stimulate the economy. The technical term is quantitative easing, and since we ?re going to see less of it, McMillan predicts a stronger U.S. dollar and higher lending costs for wineries who want to expand or make acquisitions. The former is good news for the consumer, since it should lower the cost of imports and keep wine cheap. It may also be bad news for high-end producers, who have higher costs of production and need higher prices to stay in business. And that interest rates will go up probably isn ?t good news for them, either. This post shows why McMillan is one of the really smart people in the wine business, and he deserves to win the Wine Blogging Award for best industry/business blog next year.
? Beware the hype: Steve McIntosh at Winethropology warns us that many of the lower prices we ?re seeing these days have very little do with wine quality and a lot to do with retailers and distributors getting rid of wine that is ?occupying precious warehouse space ? not all of which is worth your hard-earned money – at any price. ? He says he fell for the hype and bought two bottles recently, One of which is nothing more than ?a watered down version of wine. ?
The three-tier system is about money, and not the consumer. Right, Missouri?
Alcohol is distributed through the three-tier system in the U.S., and is constitutionally protected, thanks to several Supreme Court decisions, just like freedom of speech and religion. But that doesn ?t mean it deserves that protection.
This was amply demonstrated in Missouri this spring. The state legislature debated a bill that would have restored a law that a federal judge had thrown out, suffered through a filibuster in the state Senate, and almost scuttled much needed legislation to decriminalize home brewing.
None of this effort was intended to benefit consumers, and none of it did. Instead, it was a fight between one distributor, its biggest competitor, and the world ?s largest booze companies to redistribute their constitutionally-protected share of the nine-figure Missouri wine, beer and spirits market.
Or, as one eyewitness told me: ?It ?s chaos. ? More, after the jump: