From sales to distribution to shipping, this country’s wine wars are inevitably fought among groups that have powerful financial interests – wineries and wholesalers, retailers and importers. But largely invisible in the debate over wine policy are those on whom the entire industry depends – wine consumers. With that in mind, a new wine advocacy group was launched this week, the American Wine Consumer Coalition. It’s the brainchild of Tom Wark, a California-based wine marketing and public relations executive who also writes a wine blog, Fermentation.
For now, the AWCC “home page” is on Facebook and, as of mid-day today, more than 500 people were listed on it, which is not a bad start. For wine consumers, one of the key goals is expansion of inter-state shipping. A news release sums up the aims: “Of primary concern to wine consumers in America is gaining access to the hundreds of thousands of wines that are now available in the American marketplace. To have access to these wines consumers must have rights to buy and have wines shipped to them from out-of-state wineries, wine stores and importers. Too often the majority of wines simply aren't sold in the various states, making inter-state direct shipment a critical element in wine consumers' lives.”
Tom Wark believes the “three-tier system” of alcohol distribution in most states (producers, distributors and retailers) is misnamed and should include a critical fourth tier, namely consumers, to recognize “their critical place in that system.” It will be interesting to see how consumers – and the industry – respond to this new initiative.