Wine choices: Are they an illusion? (by Dave McIntyre)

Posted: January 24, 2013 by wynmaker in Cellars, Wine, Wineries, World wine news
Tags: , , , ,
Wine choices, are they real?

Wine choices, are they real?


Do you feel overwhelmed when shopping for wine? The sheer magnitude of choices is daunting. There are wallabies and penguins and rabbits, oh my! Do you prefer to go Barefoot or wear Flip Flops, nosh on Layer Cakes or Cupcakes, ride Red Bicyclettes or Red Trucks? The wine shelf is a cornucopia of variety.

And it’s a lie. Sort of.
A recent study out of Michigan State University found that more than 50 percent of the wine sold in the United States is produced, licensed or exclusively imported by three companies: E. & J. Gallo, the Wine Group and Constellation Brands. The top five firms — add Treasury Wine Estates and Trinchero Family Estates to the list — account for more than 200 distinct brands. Many are inexpensive wines with cute names, such as Cupcake and Pinot Evil (the Wine Group), or Barefoot (Gallo). The brand names sometimes suggest a desire to confuse consumers rather than stake a market claim: Now & Zen is a Wine Group brand, but Zen of Zin is Constellation.

All of that inspires a question: So what? Do we care who makes the wine, as long as it’s good, drinkable juice?

“People should care that so many wines are made by so few companies,” says Phil Howard, the MSU sociologist who wrote the study with several of his graduate students. The brand concentration fits the classic definition of an oligopoly — a market dominated by a handful of large suppliers — and that concentration isn’t apparent on labels, Howard explained in a recent e-mail interview. “Consumers who want to support a competitive market and maintain diverse choices don’t want to unwittingly contribute to dominance by a few firms,” he wrote.
Read on …


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