Mea Culpa: TB had details of the SAB/Miller – AB ImBev were wrong and have been corrected. In the same sectionit was Heineken, not Stella Artois that purchased 50% of Lagunitas Brewing. Mea maxima culpa.
Also note that TB welcomes your comments both positive and negative – just make them constructive.
The Management aka TB
First, let me make it clear that TB favors small wineries, especially family wineries. That is not to say that bigger ones are bad but the more people who become involved, the less the passion, and passion is a key element in doing everything to make a remarkable wine. What TB loathes is corporate ownership of wineries. You cannot run a winery like a typical division of a corporation, yet it is done all the time and there are different time horizons: longer term for a family owned winery; short-term for a corporation. In addition to wineries, I find similar comparisons with small wine shops (these focus mainly on wine although they may carry hard liquor too), and the chains which can be as big as Beverages & More, and Total Wines.
A new concern is online wine sellers. Why? Because they may be clearing out someones stale inventory and thus able to sell it at a low price, yet because they bought it at a distress price, make a very large profit…and don’t forget shipping costs! But the important thing is they sell either on a rating (with so many out there far too many are getting 90 ratings and even if it is deserved you might not like it). Remember, you are your own best wine critic! What Robert Parker or Trader Bill thinks is irrelevant…unless you are speculating in wine, something else TB loathes as it drives the cost up to you, the consumer.
Now I will give you three examples of family-owned contrasted to corporate-owned:
Taylor Wine Company, one of the oldest in the U.S. and located in Hammondsport, New York. Originally it used native American grapes such as Catawba and Concord. When other growers had success by bringing in the vinifera grapes from Europe, eventually they decided to do likewise. Then they were bought out by Coca-Cola, who apparently didn’t understand the lead time between planting new vines and getting the production from them to be profitable. In the end, Coke filed bankruptcy for the winery, one with a very long tradition even if you didn’t care for the style.
Robert Mondavi Winery, founded in 1966, became the benchmark for large producer California wines until it was surpassed by…yep…smaller family-owned vineyards. In addition to the joint venture on Opus with Baron Phillipe Rothschild, they began partnering and buying out old family owned wineries in Italy with great reputations for quality. Ironically, the film Mondovino showed them in a bad light, having deviated from their roots. Produced in 2004, it was about the time the Mondavi empire peaked and eventually was bought out by a corporation, Constellation Brands, now a powerhouse but before that famous for one wine My Wild Irish Rose…need TB say more?
TB is not gloating about what happened to Mondavi since it was the first winery he visited the year he and his wife were married, 1969. TB had a vertical collection of their Cabernet Sauvignon from inception, 1966, with at least two bottles from each year (the 1966 was purchased for $4.50!). After the sale, interest was lost and one vertical case was donated to the University of Nevada for an auction, and later the other sold at a Butterfield auction. Because of the corporate ownership, TB has not purchased a bottle from the winery since.
Lastly, what the title of the blog is about. How many of you remember the original Samuel Adams? A true craft beer, but IT grew until it and Yuengling became the two biggest selling craft beers in America…if you can still call them that…TB can’t, not at 4 million barrels a year each! Same goes for Stella Artois one of TB’s favorite’s and now available on tap in most restaurants and bars in America. Is that what a true beer drinker wants to see? By the way, if you want to read what one bar owner has to say about them go to Open letter to Sam Adams
Now to the point: do you recall when Miller Brewing was sold to SAB (Stella Artois), and later Anheuser-Busch was bought by the Dutch company AmBev? Frankly, I never cared much for either Miller or Bud, but they were very popular among the masses and that is what counts, right? Well, if you own the company it is.
A couple of months ago it was announced that Heineken bought a 50% interest in Lagunitas brewery, a beer TB thoroughly enjoyed and still likes, however, several people have said, and TB felt, that it doesn’t taste as good as it once did. Furthermore. both Heineken and Beck’s suffered when they began bottling in the U.S. and thus increased production. Big production will do that. But the big issue now is the AB ImBev – SAB/Miller buyout for $106 billion, yes, billion! In addition, the breakup premium is $3 billion, meaning if, for any reason, the deal doesn’t go through, AB ImBev is out that much! This smells to me like there is something assuring them that it will go through despite them being the #1 and #2 beer producers in the world. Some legislators here have voiced concerns or even dissent, but it is the EU that will decide. What this means for consumers should it happen, and TB will bet it does, is control over beer prices globally, something the Sherman-Antitrust Act was supposed to prevent and the EU has fined some of the large U.S. tech companies for their practices, yet here are two in their own backyard and hardly a peep.
This is what TB does not want to see in the wine industry, Gallo, and Franzia Wines (two-buck Chuck), have a huge monopoly on wines but not on premium wines. Fred Franzia says “never pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine.” Are we to take it that the price may go to somewhere above the $5 it is already at?
A local fellow blogger doesn’t believe you should pay more than $20 for a wine, and despite his self-admission that he has never taken a wine class, he rates them and then deducts for every dollar above ten. By that test, wouldn’t everyone buy a Chevy rather than a Porsche? TB’s just sayin’…
So here is what TB thinks: the aforementioned blogger is correct that people can not drink a $25, $30, or more every night of the week. So buy something cheap to drink during the week that you like. But be adventuresome on weekends and try some better wines…preferably with the help of a small wine shop that is knowledgeable and listens to what you like in a wine.
There is very little bad wine being sold today as good wine is forcing it out and people are becoming more aware of what they like. France, converted something like three million gallons of wine into ethanol last year. Why? Because they couldn’t sell it, obviously. There is a message there. TB’s message to you is if everyone tried to consume $10 wine, or even up to $20 and would never pay more, there would still be plenty of wine around, but the wines of character would be gone. At least you could just go and pick up any bottle as they would all taste the same. Fine…that is, if you don’t want a really good bottle of wine.
Perhaps it is like the younger generation: they have recording artists they love but they don’t pay for the music. See the similarity?
Off to have a glass of good wine…
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