Category: Thoughts

The WSWA Gets It Right

February 23, 2010

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the NFL Players Association and Discovery Education Partner on New Effort to Address Underage Access to Alcohol

It’s 21. Just Pass initiative reinforces the message that the legal drinking age is 21 and challenges high school students’ knowledge about the laws and consequences of underage drinking


Jerry Brown, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

Jilane Rodgers, NFL Players Association

Stephen Wakefield, Discovery Education

Silver Spring, Md. (Feb. 23, 2010) – The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and Discovery Education announce a new partnership creating the It’s 21. Just Pass initiative. Designed to reinforce the message that the legal drinking age is 21 and challenge high school students’ knowledge about the laws and consequences of underage drinking, It’s 21. Just Pass has launched in 21 cities across the country.

The central component of this effort is the It’s 21. Just Pass challenge which targets high school students and features:

  • A quiz which challenges students’ current knowledge while providing critical information about the laws and consequences related to underage drinking;
  • A drawing to award one $5,000 scholarship (students become eligible by taking a short online quiz); and
  • An assembly featuring an NFL player, awarded to the school with the highest challenge participation levels.

In addition, the It’s 21. Just Pass online video forum encourages students to create short videos about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking for a chance to win two tickets to an area NFL game.

“WSWA is committed to community programs that address underage access to alcohol,” said Craig Wolf, President and CEO, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. “By partnering with NFLPA and Discovery Education, we’ve leveraged high-profile sports personalities and a very credible educational resource to help us develop an innovative campaign that demonstrates our ongoing commitment to become an industry leader in social responsibility.”

“The NFLPA proudly supports all of its players in their community service endeavors,” said George Atallah, NFLPA Assistant Executive Director External Affairs. “Ventures like ‘It’s 21. Just Pass’ give these player role models an invaluable platform to spread a positive message.”

“Discovery Education is committed to empowering educators with the tools and resources that engage students in learning each and every day – whether those lessons are about the solar system or the consequences of underage drinking,” said Mary Rollins, Vice President of Education Partnerships, Discovery Education.  “We are pleased to partner with WSWA and NFLPA on the It’s 21. Just Pass initiative, and look forward to collaborating on this joint mission to educate teachers, parents and students about the dangers of underage drinking.”

To learn more about It’s 21. Just Pass, visit

We’ve been critical of the WSWA’s position on direct shipment of wine to consumers, and their rather flimsy argument that what kids these days want to do is order expensive wine from out-of-state retailers to be shipped to their door and not have their ID checked by the shipper.

Regardless, we are not above giving props where props are due. The WSWA’s program to educate high school kids on the realities of underage drinking’s consequences appears smart. It appears well thought-out, with incentives to get kids involved and raise awareness with some pretty compelling carrots being dangled in front of them (a scholarship and a school visit by “an NFL player” – no specifics there – being the biggest ones).

Is it likely to reduce the occurrence of underage drinking (especially binge drinking by minors)? We remain skeptical but optimistic.

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Say again why we should “Save the Wine Column”?

A Facebook site called “Save the Wine Column” has now over 700 industry and non-industry members and is growing daily.

Supporters have flooded to the page that was constructed last week by wine journalist Rebecca Gibb, after news that Tim Atkin’s weekly Observer wine column is to be significantly reduced.

His column has been cut from from 900 words to just two wine recommendations with tasting notes of 40 words each.

Although Atkin will still appear in the Observer Food Monthly, he told Harpers: “It’s sad that the Observer have made this decision and especially for all the readers who have supported me and read the weekly column over the past 17 years.”

Commenting on the site,  Atkin MW, who has been writing the column in the Observer since 1993, said: “I’m biased, but I don’t think newspaper wine columns are dead, or on the way out just yet. There’s a proven demand for good copy with useful recommendations. There are still columns on the FT, [Financial Times] Telegraph, Indie [Independent] and Times after all.”

It’s not the first column to have been recently slashed, in March 2009, Joanna Simon’s column was taken in-house at the Sunday Times and Richard Ehrlich’s wine column for the Independent on Sunday was cut.

On the site, Gibb said: “The loss of wine columns is a worldwide trend as seen by the number of international members getting involved from France to Canada, the US and New Zealand.”

Due to the page’s growing membership, it also points to Facebook’s increasing in popularity as a social networking medium throughout the wine industry.

Dear friends, the wine column is alive and well with wine bloggers. Yes, yes, you don’t get paid much right now, your audience is small, and you feel like you have no impact at all.

Has the Wine Bloggers’ Conference taught us nothing at all? Wineries get it, a growing number of Internet-savvy consumers are reading and trusting them. The ad dollars that originally went to print newspapers and subsequently into the paychecks of wine writers have been consistently (if slowly) moving toward wine blogs. Ad networks set up by online wine publishers such as Palate Press show a technique that bridges the old print world and the online world, one that advertisers can relate to and they reasonably understand. Friends, the transformation is fully underway.

Even traditional curmudgeons such as Steve Heimoff benefit from the growing wine blog trend, even as he disparages it. Several well known wine writers have at least explored, if not fully embraced, moving their wine writing to blogs. It’s our belief that, once the ad dollars show up in sufficient numbers (i.e. the tipping point), wine writing will move online with such speed that people will no longer bemoan the passing of print wine columns.

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Constellation follows long tradition of pay-to-play politics

Constellation Brands Inc. denied Thursday that its $25,000 campaign contribution to the re-election of Gov. David Paterson was tied to Paterson’s proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

The donation was made the week before Paterson announced his wine plan Jan. 19, as part of his proposed 2010/2011 budget, raising concern. Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group, said Thursday that “generally speaking, major businesses don’t give campaign contributions out of the goodness of their hearts. They believe it will have influence and they don’t give unless they think it will work.”

Constellation spokeswoman Cheryl Gossin said the contribution is “not in any way connected to the wine in grocery stores” proposal. Constellation made the contribution in response to a campaign fundraiser, Jan. 12, in Rochester organized by community leaders, she said. Constellation had planned to make the contribution a month before that, she added.
While Constellation supports the governor, she said, it has and will remain neutral on the wine-in-grocery stores issue.

Likewise, Richie Fife, spokesman for Paterson’s re-election campaign, said Thursday, “there is absolutely no connection” to the Constellation contribution and the governor’s support for wine in grocery stores.

The long-standing debate over whether New York should allow wine in supermarkets heated up this year with the state’s fiscal woes. Opponents say the proposal would put the state’s roughly 2,700 liquor stores out of business. Supporters say putting wine in the state’s 19,000 groceries and convenient stores would boost wine sales and raise tax revenue.

Somedays, it’s really hard not to be cynical.

If the allegation is true (that is, that Constellation donated money to a politician in order to influence the “wine in grocery stores” issue), it’s only following the example of every other corporate interest who enables the election (or re-election) of politicians who will do their bidding when the contributor’s “booty call” comes in. Every other major legislative and policy decision made in this fine country (financial reform, health care, water rights, direct shipping, and so on) seems to follow this time-honored tradition.

Paterson’s denial-by-proxy that there is no connection is disingenuous at best. The fact that an corporation who had an interest in changing how wine is sold in New York made a sizable (if not six-figure) contribution to the governor’s re-election campaign. The appearance of impropriety is enough that the governor needs to do more than just claim that there’s no connection.


Honestly, what’s the problem with large corporations paying to get their way in politics? Apparently it’s the only way to get things done in the United States. Now, if only the teeming unwashed masses of people who can actually vote a ballot had that kind of influence…

Posted via web from Wine Biz Radio

Stuff you should know: ShipCompliant and their newsletter

Hidden Costs of Expanding Your Direct Shipping Program

At what point does it make sense to get a direct shipping license for a particular state? Common business sense dictates you will wait until (at a minimum) the benefits of gaining market access outweigh the licensing costs. But are you fully aware of the costs involved? Make sure you are ready to grow your business by understanding these “hidden” fees you may encounter.


Bond fees are commonly overlooked by wineries calculating the cost of shipping to a new state. A bond is a written guaranty that all taxes owed will be paid to the state. A bond fee is essentially an insurance premium—you pay an annual or biannual “premium” to secure a bond. Bond premiums typically average around 10% of the total bond price, or $50-$180 out-of-pocket for the winery on a recurring basis . Different bonding agents may quote different rates, so it pays to shop around.

Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin all require a bond in order to obtain a direct shipping license. In all of these states (except Oregon) you will need to secure a bond before submitting your license application. Oregon issues the bond documents after the license application has been received but before the license is issued.

Label Registration

Though not as common as bond fees, some states charge for label registrations. Ohio, a state that 26% of direct shippers have in their program, requires wineries to register all the labels that will be shipped into the state for a one-time registration fee of $50 per label. This can add up if you plan on shipping multiple labels into the state so you will want to consider this in your budget.

And if that sounds pricy to you, consider Connecticut. Connecticut charges $200 per label and you must re-register labels every 3 years if you continue to ship that product to Connecticut.

Georgia, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Virginia require label or brand registration, but there is no charge in these states.

Application Fees

Depending on your business structure, some states may require business registration, tax registration or other application fees. This depends entirely on how your business is set up and varies state to state. You may encounter some of these additional fees if you plan to start shipping to Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia or Wisconsin.

The key to ensuring a profitable direct shipping program is to do your research in order to avoid getting caught off-guard with unexpected costs. If you are responsible for your company’s direct shipping program, you can stay on top of all required license, bond, registration and application fees at or you can use this online break-even calculator to help you determine true costs. Knowledge is power!

ShipCompliant has a newsletter they send out, and this article made me sit up and take notice. While SC has been a sponsor of the show in the past (though not currently), I will say that you are not likely to find a firm more knowledgeable of the regulatory Gordian Knot that is beverage compliance than these guys.

Posted via web from Wine Biz Radio

Steve Heimoff Claims Social Media Backlash Is Forming

Backlash against social media gathers steam

Two articles recently caught my eye. Although they were not apparently related, I saw an underlying connection that speaks, perhaps, to the future of social media.

The first, on the front page of last Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle, was headlined “Cafe asks customers to turn off laptops and start talking.” It seems there’s a coffee shop right here in Oakland whose owner “is asking customers to leave their laptops at home and actually speak to each other.” Anyone who’s ever been in a free wi-fi environment like Starbucks is familiar with the situation: people hunkered down at tables, nursing a $3 latte for hours while surfing the web. “I don’t have anything against technology,” said the cafe’s owner, a young, hip-looking guy with a goatee (i.e. not some dinosaur Boomer who “doesn’t get it”), “but it’s not the same as looking someone in the eye and pressing the flesh.”

I’ve expressed some negative feelings in this blog over the last year about the way laptops and other personal digital devices, like cell phones, are intruding into the social contract. That contract is an old one, understood pretty much by everyone, and it relates to how we behave in shared social situations. In a crowded elevator, for example, most people will be silent and avoid making eye contact with strangers. On an airplane flight, passengers understand the concept of personal space, which includes audio space: don’t let your arms stick over into your neighbor’s area, don’t make unnecessary noise, etc.

What technology is doing to us is destroying the traditional social contract. Now, that person next to you in the elevator is just as likely to be yakking into a Bluetooth. The other day at my gym, a woman was screaming at the top of her lungs into her cell phone for a good half-hour, while the rest of us had to endure her drama. With laptops in cafes, it’s just the opposite: where ten years ago patrons might have been debating about politics, gossiping, or playing chess, today they’re absorbed in their own little worlds. They might as well be on the Space Shuttle as in a crowded room with other human beings. “It’s now socially acceptable to text during dinner parties or stand alone at a party and check email,” the Chronicle article acidly observed.

Not at my dinner parties!

The second article was sent to me by Ron Washam, the famous Hosemaster of Wine. It is an excerpt from a new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” by a Harpers Magazine writer, Jason Lanier. Lanier deconstructs many myths surrounding social media in a way I strongly agree with. His underlying message is that social media is not only not bringing us closer and making us better, more dextrous communicators, but in fact is achieving exactly the opposite. “I know quite a few people, most of them young adults, who are proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook. Obviously, their statements can be true only if the idea of friendship is diminished,” Lanier writes, in a devastatingly pinpoint j’accuse whose truth is hard to deny. Lanier also demolishes one of the more persistent myths of social media: that its “hive mind” nature, in which thousands or millions of individual human minds are collectivized digitally, is somehow superior to a mere “organic human.” This is the assumption made by those entrepreneurs (and I’ve recently written about them) who are launching all these new “people’s wine tastings,” in which the collective wisdom of the crowd is said to be more trustworthy than the judgment of an individual expert. “The most tiresome claim of the reigning digital philosophy is that crowds working for free do a better job at some things than antediluvian paid experts,” Lanier writes. Tiresome, indeed.

The connection between the two articles is that there is a backlash setting in against social media. In the first case, real people, such as the cafe owner, are starting to understand how divisive technology can be (and it’s interesting that their customers are beginning to agree with them). In the second case, academics are questioning the metaphysics of social media, not just analyzing it, but peering into its destructive potential. So we have two prongs moving together in a pincer movement: normal people on the ground and the philosophers of the academy. That is now movements form, and generate momentum.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 at 12:10 am and is filed under News, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Steve Heimoff has never shown himself to be much of a fan of social media, and wine blogging in particular. However, in claiming that technology has somehow broken traditional social structures, he fails to realize that social media hasn’t broken those social contracts, it’s transformed them into something different. For him, he doesn’t see a benefit from engaging, which may or may not be a function of his place in the industry, his world view, his age, or any number of other factors.
Or to put it another way, YMMV (and for him, his mileage seems to vary considerably versus the unwashed masses of crowdsourcing plebes).

Posted via web from Wine Biz Radio

Setting The Record Straight, Already: Unified ’10 “Social Media & YOU”

Apparently, there was a question about what Paul Mabray (of Vintank) said during the panel discussion on “Social Media & YOU” at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium on Wednesday afternoon this week. Fortunately, our associate producer (and wunderkind) Christophe had the presence of mind (as he apparently reguluarly does) to have his handy digital recorder running during the presentation. Well, he did start it after El Jefe finished his presentation, so the audio starts at the Q&A for Jeff Stai. However, the recording has everything from Paul, so we could set the record straight with respect to what he did and didn’t say regarding whether wineries should outsource their social media presence and/or strategy.

Here’s a transcript of the audio in question. I can make this audio available to whomever wants to hear it with their own ears.

Rick Bakas: We’ve had a couple questions come in for Paul. All right, from Rick Breslin: Should a winery hire an in-house analyst or go to an outside agency if they want to have a social media presence or strategy?

Paul Mabray: Um, I think it’s size dependent and brand dependent. I mean, if you’re going to be a focus on social media and you have a lot of online activity of course you should have an in-house person; but otherwise, it’s cheaper and easier to get an outsource. I mean, in reality, I mean Rick, you’re not inexpensive, are you?

Rick Bakas: I don’t get paid at all. I actually pay St. Supéry [Paul: Got it.] to work there, I’m having too much fun.

We hope this puts the matter to rest, but we do have the audio available.

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