Each day, we all receive the same email updates: ____________Family winery has been purchased by _____________ Corporation, for a an ungodly sum of money. we scratch our heads, wonder why, and continue on with our day, slightly sad that a brand we once loved, has been gobbled up by a corporation.
The cynic in us, is inclined to believe that the wines are going to be worse, homogenized, conformed to an "international" style. This may be true, but it's not the real crime, nor the thing we should worry about. The truly nefarious reason behind all of these acquisitions? Leverage.
In a post apocalyptic-consumer wine desert, choice will be stricken. You will have Oregon wine A, B, or C-all made by corporations. What happened to all of the choices you may ask? Simple-The corporations and distributors decided, together, to streamline consumer choices, by manipulating buyers in a myriad of ways. Not the least of which is the illusion of a "great portfolio of historic wineries(that are no longer what they once were), one stop shopping". They make it easy- This is the leverage.
The acknowledgment that the gatekeeper to a wine program is well suited, perhaps for a management roll, but often, not beverage specific. When you have an individual, that is comfortable with groceries or ordering napkins, 15 distributors with a dizzying array of products, fancy names and suited managers, it makes sense to shave your choices down to 2 or 3 people. Unfortunately, those 2 or 3 people, are invariably, the largest, and most powerful, with the recently announced acquisition of __________ Family winery, they are buying a false credibility. Meritocracy-by-dump-truck-full-of-cash.
What can we do? Operating a winery is VERY difficult. It's hard work, long hours, wearing many hats, and the money is hard. If we, in the middle tiers want to have a job for the next few decades, we need to make sure that those family owned wineries get the credence they deserve. Say no to corporate wine, whenever possible. Fight for diversity of portfolios. Help and challenge your customers to work to build wine programs they can take ownership from. Educate yourself, educate your buyers, educate their staffs. It's the only way you can take away their leverage, by making it hard.