Top Wine Stories of 2016

A look back on the most-read news articles from 2016

by Andrew Adams
wines vines stories franzia marijuana fire
Fred Franzia’s keynote address, the struggle for vineyard labor and the Soberanes Fire were the three most-read stories of 2016 at winesandvines.com.
San Rafael, Calif.—The organizers of the 2016 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento made a good choice in picking Fred Franzia as the event’s keynote speaker. The successful and opinionated Franzia delivered an address that did not disappoint, and the report by senior correspondent Paul Franson was the top-read story on winesandvines.com during the past year. An article about vineyard workers being lured away by the high pay of California’s marijuana industry was the second-best-read story, and a report about the destructive Soberanes Fire in Monterey County was No. 3 on this year’s top-10 list.

Wines & Vines’ regular reporting about the top wine brands by sales continues to be quite popular, as are articles about sales trends and grapegrowing. The following list is based on pageviews tracked by Google Analytics. 

1. Two Billion-Buck Chuck
Fred Franzia takes on banks, grapegrowers and academia in lively talk at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
(Jan. 26, 2016)
Attendees at the sold-out keynote luncheon featuring Fred Franzia at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium weren’t disappointed by the irascible president of Bronco Wine Co. The father of “Two Buck Chuck,” who co-founded his wine company in 1973 with his brother and cousin after their parents sold the family business to The Coca Cola Co., delivered zingers worthy of Donald Trump to enthusiastic listeners… Read more here.

2. Harvest Wars
Vineyards losing labor to marijuana growers promising easier work for better pay
(Nov. 21, 2016)
California’s marijuana and grapegrowers are at odds over more than water. They also are vying for the same labor pool at harvest time. The problem is particularly acute in Mendocino County, especially the remote, sparsely populated Anderson Valley. A perfect storm of factors makes getting reliable help harder: a smaller labor pool, a proliferation of marijuana growers and myriad issues with the vineyards, which are often too small and too remote for mechanized harvesting… Read more here

3. Vineyard Destroyed by Fire, Others Threatened by Smoke
Soberanes Fire near Big Sur could taint wine grapes in Carmel Valley AVA
(July 27, 2016)
The Soberanes Fire that grew to more than 23,000 acres near Big Sur today already has claimed one vineyard and is threatening the 2016 vintage in parts of Monterey County. According to Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association (MCVGA), Big Sur Vineyard owner Lenora Carey was informed Monday night that her property, which included a small estate vineyard, had been lost in the fire, which started July 22… Read more here.

4. Barefoot Tramples Other Top Wine Brands
Latest Wine Industry Metrics report examines top 20 U.S. wine brands
(July 18, 2016)
E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Barefoot wine brand doesn’t just top the list of the top-selling off-premise U.S. wine brands, it’s almost in its own category. In the past 52 weeks through June, the brand retained the top spot for the 20 leading wine brands, and it was No. 1 through the same period last year… Read more here.

5. Tasting Room Survey Discloses Disparities
Wages and lifetime value of wine club members vary widely by region
(May 12, 2016)
For their annual survey about trends in tasting rooms, Silicon Valley Bank and Wine Business Monthly query bank customers and other wineries about their practices. The results always seem to turn up some surprises, and the questions are tweaked each year to reflect current trends… Read more here.

5. Majority of Napa Growers to Replace Vines by 2017
Rootstock event features insights from harvest survey of members
(Nov. 10, 2016)
Pressure from grapevine red blotch-associated virus and Pierce’s disease is one of the main reasons most Napa County wine grape growers plan to redevelop vineyards by 2017… Read more here.

6. U.S. Wine Sales Total $38 billion
Key industry metrics stay positive through the end of 2015
(Jan. 15, 2016)
Retailers, restaurants and wineries all saw sales increases in 2015, swelling the size of the market for U.S. wine to more than $38 billion. Year-end data also confirmed the strength of trends toward higher price segments and thriving sparkling wine sales… Read more here.

7. Number of Millennial Wine Drinkers Catches Boomers
Baby boomers remain largest group of high-frequency wine drinkers, says Wine Market Council
(March 17, 2016)
The Wine Market Council’s annual presentation to members last week focused on two trends in the wine market: the number of millennial wine drinkers has caught up with baby boomers as the boomers’ wine consumption has begun to drop… Read more here.

6. Top 20 Off-Premise Brands
U.S. wine sales total more than $2.5 billion during first month of 2016
(Feb. 16, 2016)
Total U.S. wine sales in the past 12 months reached $37.8 billion and topped more than $2.5 billion in January alone. January DtC shipments increased 15% over the previous year, and off-premise sales grew by 10%… Read more here.

7. Wine Industry Not Ready for Retail Changes
SB 1032 takes effect in January; similar law prompted increase in beer prices in 2015
(Nov. 4, 2016)
New retail promotions regulations, which had been strongly opposed by grocery stores, passed into law and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Co-sponsored by the Wine Institute in San Francisco, Calif., SB 1032 among other provisions bars paper coupons and electronic scan-backs for wine sales at California retailers… Read more here.

8. What Retailers Like in Wine Packaging
Wine in cans gaining popularity, but going too trendy can backfire
(Aug. 24, 2016)
One of the most popular sessions at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference on Aug. 17 featured three wine retailers discussing what wine packaging worked for them—and what didn’t… Read more here.

9. Total Wine Tells All
Alcohol retailer plans to have 200 stores by 2018
(Oct. 10, 2016)
Attendees got a detailed look at fast-growing wine retailer Total Wine & More from co-founder and co-owner Robert Trone during the Wine Industry Financial Symposium held in Napa on Sept. 27. The chain has 149 stores including 28 storefronts in Florida, and California already ties Virginia with 17 each. It has 12 stores in Washington, Texas and North Carolina as well as 10 in Arizona. The retailer is not active in New York or Illinois (two of the biggest wine markets), nor in Pennsylvania, ironically, since that is where it began… Read more here.

9. Mergers and Acquisitions from Both Viewpoints
Leaders of large wine companies detail reasoning behind current flurry of deals
(Oct. 5, 2016)
Though you might expect the biggest concerns at the 25th Wine Industry Financial Symposium held Sept. 26 and 27 in Napa to be the economy, the election, water or the grape crop this year, no topic got more attention than mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The meeting was abuzz about the unprecedented stream of acquisitions of wineries, brands and vineyards in the past few years—not to mention mergers, but those were primarily in distribution and retailing, and are equally impacting the industry… Read more here.

10. Balanced Vines Produce Better Wines
Researchers share findings about correlation between yields and wine quality
(Nov. 8, 2016)
The issue of “the lower yield the better” as a universal rule has been pretty well debunked by scientists, but it hasn’t been accepted by all winery marketing personnel (and some winemakers) who insist that lower yields equal better quality… Read more here.

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