Wine News: Are We ‘Buying Up’ Again? Yet?

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 ‚€œbuying 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 ‚€œbuying 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.

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2 Responses to Wine News: Are We ‘Buying Up’ Again? Yet?

  1. Allen Clark says:

    My first thought was to point out that I’d have to categorize myself as a
    bit of an outlier – my wine spending isn’t tied to a budget, as my
    governor is simply space (if I can’t store more, I can’t buy more). So
    rate of purchase tends to match rate of consumption, therefore my sense
    has been that my spending has been fairly constant, and contained. But
    then I realized I could quantify this, as I track my finances in Quicken
    and categorize purchases. I found that wine expenditures have
    (surprisingly, to me) vacillated with the economy. The subliminal power
    of suggestion?
    Year over year – 2007 down 6%, 2008 up 33%, 2009 down 39%, 2010 up 45%.

  2. Allen – Are those changes in terms of quantity or price? (Im assuming
    the latter.) I doubt most people are drinking less because of the
    economy, but were probably drinking less expensively. Seems like you had
    a good recovery year last year, though – I hope you are a national
    economic barometer!

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