The Maturing of American Wine

By Tom Wark

Ok…I’m going to geek out on you here. But stay with me, particularly if your interest in wine goes beyond the buzz and the taste.

The vast amount of wine scholarship — I’m talking real scholarly work, not ratings — is done in the area of chemical analysis and biology. This makes sense. While scholarship these days tends to take a hit for being rather obscure stuff, it is the people who grow grapes and make the wine for whom most researchers write.

Now I discover a new academic journal not related to the pace at which vineyard viruses spread, not related to the chemical analysis of native versus cultured yeasts but instead is devoted to the Economics of Wine.

The Journal of Wine Economics is published by The American Association of Wine Economists. The first issue of the JWE is located here.

The first issue of JWE contains the following articles:

1.Interstate Wine Shipments and E-Commerce

2.Measurement and Inference in Wine Tasting

3.Analysis of a Wine Tasting

4.What Determines Wine Prices: Objective vs. Sensory Characteristics

5.Early Sales of Bordeaux Grands Crus

6.Assessing the Effect of Information on the Reservation Price for Champagne: What are Consumers Actually Paying for?

Does the emergence of this kind of academic publication indicate that the American wine industry has emerged into a new stage: Maturity?

I think it does. Emerging industries are best supported by scholarship that supports that emergence. It offers block-and-tackle type research that helps the new industry better perform at its most basic level. In the context of wine, that means making the stuff.

But when an industry achieves a sufficient level of market access, the scholarship can begin to help the industry focus on maintaining that level of market ownership as well as using economic and marketing tools to extend it. It strikes me that this is exactly what the new association of wine economists and its journal are doing.

Why do you care? You probably shouldn’t. If your interest in wine amounts to which is better and which is most interesting, then you needn’t care much about “What Determines Wine Prices: Objective vs. Sensory Characteristics”.

However, if the American wine industry is entering into a mature state, you can count on the industry using more sophisticated methods of gaining your attention and dollars. This is nothing to fear — but, it is something for the savvy wine consumer to be aware of. On the other hand, if you are an altogether complete and total wine geek, you’ll probably love this stuff.

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