Winebits 251: Wine prices, Amazon, Champagne fraud

? Never trust the media? Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight must have a wonderfully dark sense of humor. On the same day last week, he posted these two links on his daily e-summary: ?U.S. wine producers reporting 'epic' 2012 harvest ? and ?End to cheap wine prices is near. ? Both, obviously, can ?t be true, but there they are. This points to the serious flaw in most of the reporting about the decline in the world grape supply. What is the demand for grapes? If demand is increasing, then prices will rise. But if demand is flat or shrinking, which could well be the case given the recession in Europe and the near-recession in China, then prices won ?t do much at all, regardless of supply. This is basic reporting, and it ?s depressing that so few people writing about the subject bother to do it.

? Amazon ?s direct shipping plan: My pal Dave McIntyre has a very even-handed assessment of Amazon ?s latest foray into the wine business ? an example of good reporting. Dave hits the high points in what Amazon is trying to do, and also notes ? which even I overlooked ? that the plan will benefit mostly smaller and mostly Napa Valley wineries, which do the most direct shipping. This may well be the key to what seems like a very limited and modest effort by Amazon ? pluck the most profitable and easiest part of the direct shipping market, and worry about the rest later.

? Why we need the French: Because any culture that really cares about wine should be appreciated. Can you imagine a U.S. prosecutor calling anyone who perpetrated a wine fraud despicable? Can you even imagine a U.S. prosecutor filing a case like that? But that ?s happened with a $2.6 million fraud case in France, where a Champagne producer tried to pass plonk off as vintage bubbly. So if they want to be a little cranky about wine names, who are we to criticize?