What is in this article?:
- Record wine grape crush in California for 2012 should not dissuade growers from stepped-up production.
- "Factors that drive wine grape prices have been in the grower’s favor lately."
- "Don’t plant on speculation; get a contract for the grapes you’re about to produce."
BEN SLAUGHTER, left, with Correia-Xavier, and Jeff Bitter, vice president of operations for Allied Grape Growers in Fresno.
Wine competition stiff
Schuler said the wine category continues to grow by 2 percent to 3 percent a year, but competition among retailers is stiff, meaning customers have a lot of options and that brings pricing pressures.
Schuler and Schubert both said those who market wine sometimes simply complicate matters with the descriptions they use and may narrow their aims too much as they reach out to consumers.
Sometimes, Schuler said, the appeal of a particular wine may have to do with the appearance of its label, and it helps “if regions have a story. It’s best to be customer centric, not wine centric,” she said.
Schubert said shoppers often “look for wine as a beverage and don’t want to be burdened by details.
She said her company, Diageo, specializes in heritage wines and lifestyle wines “with approachable packaging and wine styles.” Her company’s wineries include Acacia, Beaulieu, Provenance, Rosenblum, Blossom Hill and Chalone.
Seven of 10 of the fastest growing wines are in the $7 to $10 segment, Schubert said, and three of the 10 are in the $10 to $15 segment. With one million Americans turning 21 every year, she believes prospects are good for growth in wine consumption. “Grocery data shows consumers are willing to spend,” Schubert said.
Among growing categories are blends and wines such as Muscat with “fruit forward” qualities.
But, she adds, the core varietals — Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot — “won’t go away.”
Social networking can be used to market wines, to build communities and to address various industry issues, said Adam Rosenberg with Edelman Public Relations in San Francisco.
“Your knowledge is your story,” Rosenberg said, referring to online services such as Yelp and TripAdvisor as ways to drive interest.
Rosenberg said shoppers are 71 percent more likely to make purchases when referred by social media. He said 94 percent of wineries are on Facebook and 73 percent are on Twitter.
By allocating just 30 minutes a week, Rosenberg said, an enterprise can create and maintain a Facebook page, set up online deals, set up paid media advertising and set up accounts on Yelp, Foursquare and TripAdvisor.
Brad Goehring, chair of the state government affairs committee for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said a Democrat super majority in the California Legislature could pose challenging times for agriculture. He said the state’s governor, who has “vetoed some harmful stuff,” could be “a backstop to union steam rollers.”
Goehring cited Gov. Brown’s actions against a boost in overtime wages, minimum wage adjustments and heat illness legislation. He said those same issues could resurface. The association has put in place a framework to address a problem of growers not getting paid when wineries are in default.
He said the continued need for laborers, in addition to a sense that “Republicans have alienated Latino voters” could set the stage for immigration reform.
The San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association presented three lifetime achievement awards, one given posthumously to L. Peter Christensen, statewide viticulture raisin and wine grape specialist on the Department of Viticulture and Enology with UC Davis.
Others honored were Ron Metzler of Fresno, an innovator in wine grape production who has served for decades on various agricultural boards, and Gary Wilson, a third-generation Kern County farmer, an innovator in machine pruning of grapes and brush chipping who also produces almonds, row crops and vegetables.
Bill Peacock, formerly a UC farm advisor for Tulare County, said of the late Mr. Christensen: “His science was spectacular.”