The Berger Merger Report
by Dan Berger
Reader Comments... [14]

Mike Lynch
Big Bang Communications, Northern California
Dan's piece is clear and well reasoned, as usual. We work with both independent and corporate wineries around the world. It might be fashionable to slam corporate wineries, but over the years I've found company structure has little effect on wine quality. Instead, quality is almost always a direct result of the resources available and passion of the people involved.

Ross Battersby, Winemaker
Limerick Lane Cellars, Healdsburg, RRV, Sonoma, CA

Another masterpiece, balanced and well integrated, lots of exposure for our buddy Nick! Thanks for being more sage and experienced than the lifestyle number mag.

Cheers, Ross

Bill Watson, State Marketing Manager
Glazers Distributors, Dallas, TX
Great article! I was with Robert Mondavi Winery from 1982 thru 1996, as it transitioned from family owned and managed to publicly traded and family managed, leaving just prior to publicly traded and no family involvement. Wow! Thank you.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor
Wine Spectator, New York, NY
I consider it shoddy journalism to use a blind quote from an unidentified "wine marketing executive" to attack Wine Spectator. It's nonsense to say that Wine Spectator "stopped being about wine years ago." Why otherwise sensible people like Dan Berger, or Ross Battersby in his comment on this article, feel the need to criticize our passion for and commitment to wine, remains a mystery to me.

Peter W. Le Fort, Owner
Winefax, California
I totally agree with your concern regarding mega merges in the industry. However, I do feel Constellation is doing a superb job of shuffling their brand resources. Probably due to the influence of Jose Fernandez.

Tim Dwight, Retailer
Green Turtle Market, Florida
So... what's the point of this article, Dan? (other than to sneak in a sideswipe at the Wine Spectator). I suppose your "conclusion" stating "It’s hard to generalize about corporate ownership, but it’s clear that, for better or worse, wine quality can be affected by a corporation’s acquisition of a privately owned winery." Come on, dude, if that's the best you can do... get off the pot! There's NO question in MY mind that when a winery operation gets sold (repeatedly), ala the recent Fortune-Constellation deal... there just ain't no soul left!

Tony Caffrey
Please adhere to higher journalistic standards. I didn't even read all the piece. It seemed to read so ideologically driven, I bailed about halfway down. I want facts, and I want opinion, and I want each clearly distinguished. I do not want opinion masquerading as fact. For example: Dan Berger writes: "Most cynics would suggest that corporations only ruin wine, but that is not always the case. There are examples where corporate ownership has saved a wine company and improved the caliber of the wines." The wording of these sentences suggests that most who oppose corporatization are cynics. Whoa, there Dan! That's Hilary Clinton style triangulation. Memo to Dan Berger. NOW would be a very good time to cite some examples of the theory you expound. But no, Dan Berger chooses not to follow up his sweeping claim with any facts. Instead he writes in the very next sentence. "BUT IN ANY CASE, (meaning, ignore what I just said, in the previous sentence), mergers almost always have huge consequences for wine lovers-even those who don't care that a winery is no longer owned by the founders. I could deconstruct that sentence to death, but I won't, and I'll save someone embarrassment. Bottom Line. Better analysis and sharper perception are required. Bring it on please.

Mark V Marino, Wine Educator
Limos America, Sonoma County, CA
Just an excellent article, Dan! Really pulls together a lot of aspects of the wine business in one article. I see many people touring Napa and Sonoma and thus get a feeling of trends with consumers. Number ratings are just over the hill. At this point there far too many 90 pt wines out there and people are realizing the lack of credibility, not to mention the subjective nature. The consumer is becoming more astute and quality and price are important, I think many of these cult wines have reached a point of being way overpriced and there is far too much room for a competitor to make a better product at a lower price. Big corporations are still bound by the market. Opus is a typical example of what can happen when they get off track, the quality can return and the collector does not. I agree this trend toward overripe fruit has threatened long term stability and aging potential of many wines, which has been encouraged by these rating people! Thanks for the article!

Jason Ohmann, Salesman
Carolina Wine Source, South Carolina
This is a great and well-written article, as has been said already. As a rep for a small fine-wine distributor I think often about how this affects us and our business. We are generally the front line troops representing small quality-oriented wineries and we are the ones that generally feel the shelf-gobbling tactics of the bigger firms first.

Brad Asmus, California
The oft repeated notion that most wine is purchased based on price, here voiced George Rose of K-J, is certainly not true. Contained within Rose’s caveat "almost always," lies the truth that purchase decisions are always more complex. Brand matters. The corporate marketers recognize this and that's why they're hiring from PG, J&J and others. Their goal is to develop recognizable brands for every price point so that they can keep the shelves at Safeway, Kroger and Costco stocked with something consumers can feel confident buying. The corporate takeover of wine brands has as much to do with the corporate food retailer's need for constant supply of branded product as anything else.

Nancy Chapel, owner
Cardwell Hill Cellars, Philomath, OR
As the co-owner of a family winery, I read your article on corporate takeovers with great interest. Cardwell Hill Cellars is run with the loving care that only hands-on ownership can provide. Our terroir-driven product would never receive the kind of focus and financial backing that we provide were it managed by some Wall Street-focused bean counter.

Judith Farquharson, Co-Owner
Catharine Valley Winery, Finger Lakes Region, NY
As a small but growing Farm Winery we find it an advantage to brand and sell our wines ourselves. Our wines and the meaning behind the names and history would be damaged if bought up by a large wine conglomerate. Hats off to the REAL wineries across the country!

Mike Ratcliffe, MD
vilafonté, South Africa
A lot of really smart comments, but ultimately the true test is to find the middle-ground between the indignity of crass commercialism and the bohemian freedom of pure art. Somewhere within that balance lies the perfect wine!

Randy Greenfield, Sales & Marketing
Wyne Lynes Etc, Whitcraft Winery, CA
Re Hang time & "the worst aspect of this for terroir-ists is that late harvesting can wreck the regional distinctiveness on which some brand images were built. "There is substantial evidence that this notion has some very notable exceptions: Pinot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache, specifically. No doubt there are more. But as the notion pertains to Cabernet and relatives from some of the most distinguished growing areas in the world, the statement couldn't be more appropriate. How long will it take before the consumer recognizes the sameness? And come to recognize the one-dimensional character?