This week’s wine news: More wine mergers are coming, plus thieves hit European vineyards and more about wine scores
• More of the same: Two executives from the country’s biggest wine companies say that the consolidation that we’ve seen is a precursor to what will happen, driven by high wine prices, aging winery owners who want to sell, and the way the wine business works. The Press Democrat newspaper reports that the officials expect to see big companies who haven’t bought wineries yet to start doing so: At “some point there’s going to be a lot of pressure with this premiumization for them to get into the game,” said Hugh Reimers, the president of Jackson Family Wines. And, in case you missed any of the buyouts and purchases, the story highs the highlights from the past couple of years. It also warns us about a forthcoming wave of Spanish cabernet sauvignon; I, for one, will immediately go on full rant alert in case I see any of that wine.
• Dirty tricks: European grape theft, whether by criminals or tourists, has become a big problem this harvest season, writes wine-searcher.com. “Due to the low harvest the grapes that have survived the frosts and the storms in spring are reported to be of high quality and, for that reason, more attractive to thieves. Police have also been on horseback patrol in the Champagne region during this year’s harvest in order to prevent thieves targeting the precious grapes.” German tourists in northern Italy have also been stealing grapes.
• Stupid scores: South African wine writer Tim James has had enough of scoring systems, concluding that “Perhaps we should just abandon the whole scoring nonsense. What a good idea!” Who am I argue with him? James’ conclusion, reached during a discussion of the various scoring systems – 100 points, 20 points, and 10 points, as well as five stars – will be familiar to regular visitors here. His point? “The mind reels at the inevitable confusion and communication failure in all this.”
? Bring on the booze? The economy is picking up, so we're getting ready to spend more money on wine, says a study from business advisory firm AlixPartners. Almost 9 out of 10 of us — up from 7 of 10 last year — will spend the same or more on alcoholic drinks in the coming 12 months. We'll do it in bars and restaurants, says the study, though there was one note of caution. Said an Alix official: "When consumers were feeling more of the full frontal assault of the financial crisis and the recession, more of them were likely to say they were going to spend less in total. Fewer consumers are saying 'I'm going to spend less,' but they haven't swung over to say 'I'm going to spend a lot more.' "
? Another merger that didn't work: Australia's Fosters Group, which spent A$7 billion to put together a wine and beer company over the past decade, has decided that the combination wasn't such a good idea after all. It has spun off the wine division, which includes Beringer and Penfolds, to a separate company. But that may not be enough to save the company, reports the Economist. All told, Fosters may taken a A$4.3 billion loss in the deal, which is the second massive wine unraveling this year. Constellation Brands sold its Aussie labels for A$230 million in February; they had cost the company A$1.85 billion.
? Surgeons shouldn't drink and cut: Yes, we have a study. Researchers in Ireland have found that drinking too much alcohol appears to interfere with a surgeon ?s skills, even the day after. As regular visitors know, the Wine Curmudgeon announced an embargo on wine and health news in 2009; the studies and claims had just gotten too silly. But this story deserved mention, if only because it's difficult to believe that someone had to study the effect of a hangover on someone who cuts into people's bodies with a sharp object.