Policy Perspectives

Clouds on the Horizon

With 40+ years in the wine industry, I’ve seen lots of ups and downs, starting in the early 1980’s when the New York grape industry was in a severe economic crisis. But then American wine consumption enjoyed a long, steady growth curve occasionally disrupted by the 2008 stock market crash, the “wine lake” in Europe, and nascent generational shifts in beverage choice.

As Yogi Berra said, “it’s deja vu all over again”, with some additional complications thrown into the mix. France is now spending $220 million to destroy excess wine, spirits have eclipsed wine as the beverage of choice for younger people, a new neo-Prohibitionist movement is far more sophisticated than the previous one, and climate change is affecting virtually all wine regions as they look to the future.

Add to all that the political climate, which is as toxic as I can ever remember. When the House returned to DC this week, the first news was Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s instruction for relevant committees to start an inquiry about whether impeachment proceedings against President Biden are warranted. If events continue to unfold as they have been, 14 months from now there will be a national election between a newly impeached (but not convicted) current President versus a former President who was twice impeached (but not convicted) and has been indicted four times with 91 criminal charges. What a choice!

I have optimism in my DNA, and I have witnessed how crises can be resolved. The New York grape industry was saved by enlightened legislation. Dying Zinfandel vineyards were saved by the White Zin craze. Wine coolers sopped up excess grapes. “The French Paradox” on 60 Minutes sparked a red wine boom and wine-friendly attitude among consumers. Vines are tough plants that have survived freezes, floods, and wildfires. And the wine industry is well regarded in Washington, largely because of our $276 billion benefit to the American economy, plus the fact that wine is produced and consumed in all 50 states.

There are many clouds on the horizon. But In these uncertain times, at least we have that friendly glass of wine to remind us that life is good. As Ovid so aptly put it, “When there is plenty of wine, sorry and worry take wing.”