Since 4th of July is approaching, it seems like an appropriate time to raise the flag and shout a call for the unity of the American Wine Industry. I was inspired to write this post after a call to action that Jerry Lohr made last week at a conference in California. The wine Industry still suffers the lasting impact of the repeal of prohibition experiment which resulted in the balkanization of the alcohol business in this country. The resulting landscape today are many small local wine industries, sheltered (or not) within their State borders that do not talk and do not propel forward American wines as a whole. This is probably accentuated by the powerful Wine Institute of California which, by mandate, focuses on California wines thus inhibiting a country wide conversation about American wines in general (California still represents 90% of the US wine industry). . Today wine is produced in all 50 States, old post prohibition laws are slowly fading away broadening commerce, vines are being planted from the high plains of Texas to the great lakes, and did I mention the internet? – We are wine nation under Bacchus and it is time to unite and build the future of the American wine industry together.
Despite the growth and the influence of the wine industry we are, so far, the most disorganized heavy weight producer in the world – every major producing country (France, Italy, Chile, Australia, Germany, Portugal etc…) have strong national body promoting their domestic wines, making sure that wine is “on the table” during commerce talks between nation and channeling monies for research and development of their domestic industry. Did you know that Chile and China have a bilateral agreement that will reduce the duty on Chilean wines imported to China to 0% by 2015 – Meanwhile the USA’s wineries will still be paying duty at 41%. Does anyone care? Believe me, when a US agricultural trade employee talks about American products that needs support they talk about meat, poultry, corn, soy, cotton, potatoes, you name it – way before wine. Why is that? Because the meat producers are organized and can get their voice heard (they are also much larger than the wine industry, I concede) – not the wine industry – we need to get our message to Washington that we want their hears. The same goes around for research – what if China, or France finds a way to make their vine mildew-resistant (a good example that Jerry has used during his talk above mentioned), they will use it, take a gigantic advantage over us and by the way sell us those vines so they can do more research – America can do better than. It is time for American wineries to unite and time for the Wine Institute of California to show some leadership in that direction. Happy 4th!