A belated Happy New Year to everyone (Buon Nuovo Anno a tutti). In normal times we reflect on the past year and plan for the new year. But like many of us, I choose to focus on 2021. Membership in the silver-haired generation (over 65) has rewarded me with my first vaccine. It’s 10 days and counting until my second dose but it’s not soon enough to book a trip to somewhere?!?
Before long the virus will be in the rear-view mirror, but some changes will remain. For example, one year ago in January I attended the Brunello Consortium event in NYC, an annual event introducing the new vintage of Brunello di Montalcino. It became the last wine event before the world shut down. Tre Bicchieri events in US, the large international shows, Vinitaly (Italy) and ProWein (Germany), were also cancelled. Now one year later these shows are not happening, and when they return, will they be the same? Expansive halls of people sipping wine standing shoulder to shoulder, I don’t think so…
Consolidation in wine industry continues and the pandemic may accelerate activity. Williams Selyem, a historic winery in Sonoma Valley California, has sold an equity stake to Burgundy’s highly respected Faiveley family (7th generation). We visited the Faiveley estate near Dijon, France in 2016. There are many synergies to this union. Both producers have large holdings of estate vineyards, wine portfolios of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and businesses are family-run.
However, there are differences in their sales and marketing. WS wines rarely appear in retail stores because the primary sales channel is DtC (direct to consumer). Whereas Faiveley wines in US market are sold exclusively through the retail channel (importer, distributor, retailer). The “work at home” economy increased DtC sales in 2020 though DtC sales are significantly than off-premise” sales (retail stores) in overall US market. Under common ownership which sales strategy will the Faiveley-WS organization adopt?
2020 fires severely damaged vineyards in western US. Many white grapes were not harvested and red grapes, if picked, have serious “smoke taint”. I have been informed by one Sonoma producer that there will be NO 2020 Pinot Noir wines, and there will be less production of 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and Sonoma (CA). Minimal revenue from wine tourism (pandemic) and their inability to make wine (fires) will threaten the livelihood of many small wineries.
It has been a difficult year for some businesses, especially small business like family-owned wineries. We should support them in whatever ways are possible.
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