The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Market Enforcement Branch saw a spike last year in the number of complaints filed by wine grape growers against buyers who couldn’t fulfill their contracts, the North Bay Business Journal reported this week. While these cases don’t involve any names you’re likely to recognize, they demonstrate the poor economy’s continuing impact on the U.S. wine industry.
Yet the wine industry continues to try to drum up some good news. (Can we string a few more infinitives in there just for good measure??) Bloomberg reported this week that younger wine drinkers are once again “buying up” by choosing pricier bottles in restaurants. The beneficiaries of this, according to Bloomberg? Constellation Brands and Diageo.
Well, okay. These wine industry behemoths produce enough wines at various price levels that they are probably pretty well insulated against the vicissitudes of recession. Or consonance. If consumers are indeed “buying up” over what they were willing to pay a year or two ago - whether in retail or restaurants - I would like to hear about it. More likely, this is wishful thinking. Consumers may be less reticent about spending money on wine now that the recession is easing, but my bet is that we’ve learned over the last few years that there are plenty of terrific wines available that cost a lot less than what we were used to paying. Maybe prestige of price is less valuable than it was before, while we’ve discovered that quality of taste can be had for less.
Are you spending more - and more comfortably - than you were a year or two ago? In other words, is the wine recession over for you personally? Or have your buying habits - in stores or restaurants - changed permanently because of the recession? Please let me know in the comments.