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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Wine Wars Edition

June 26, 2011 by [email protected]  
Filed under Wine

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Wine Wars

Mike Veseth, author of the respected wine blog, The Wine Economist, and author or co-author of more than a dozen books, is a professor of International political economy at the University of Puget Sound in the state of Washington and he’s released his first wine-centric book, Wine Wars – a clear-eyed and expansive take on globalism and big business in wine. 

It’s a welcome addition to the wine book shelf.

A good portion of my early wine and wine business POV was informed by Lewis Perdue’s very accessible 1999 wine business book, The Wrath of Grapes, still a fine read if you can find it used.  Veseth’s book is a worthy next generation heir to that tradition.

For many writers, the wine business is handled as a dry, academic subject, but in the hands of Veseth (like Perdue before him) it’s interesting and zippy reading (bordering on a fun vacation read) and an incredibly helpful primer for not only the newly wine interested to help them understand the wine wall at their grocery store, but also savvy veterans who have, perhaps, focused their learning in specific regions, not looking at the wine world in totality and from a business perspective.


I wrote a jacket blurb for Wine Wars, so my opinion is obviously biased—as such this isn’t a formal review per se, but if you’re interested in reading Wine Wars, I have two publisher supplied copies to give away to readers – simply leave a comment and answer this question:  Wine from which emerging wine region is more interesting to you?  Baja California, Mexico, Niagara, Ontario or Eastern Bloc countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Romania?

FedEx and the Wine Pick-up

Take the growth of the global wine world, combine with hegemony in U.S. distribution, add in the growth of wine shipping to consumers and stir it up with niche wine ecommerce sites like Winemonger, Canadian Wine Shop, and Israeli Wine Direct and a couple of things become obvious:  1) We’re all likely to source wine from niche sites in the future and 2) We’re all going to deal with the hassle of providing an adult signature on our wine shipments. 


I use a UPS store for my wine shipments for the convenience of delivery on the first try with packages sent via any shipping company (wine and multiple days on a truck equals a potentially bad outcome) and because store personnel sign for the, “Over 21 signature required” package in my stead.  However, that convenience does have a cost – about $200 a year to have a parcel box, equivalent to a postal service P.O. Box.  It’s worth it to me because I’m not at home during the day to accept and sign for packages and because I choose not to make my employer a part of my wine enthusiasm by having them observe me receiving a steady stream of wine packages on a weekly basis.

Into this fray comes FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s).  They are now offering a service where consumers can receive packages at a FedEx Office location where it will be signed for and held for your pick-up.

There are some initial limitations to this program – FedEx Office isn’t offering a free service AND a personal mail box like I pay for that accepts packages from anyone.  The free service is limited to shipments that are sent by FedEx – you’re out of luck if a package is coming from UPS or the USPS.  In my experience, the overwhelming majority of wine shipments are made by UPS. 

However, a consumer can use a FedEx location for their shipping address if a package is being shipped from FedEx or a package that is in transit can be re-directed from a residential address to a FedEx Office store location, a convenience that FedEx previously charged for. 

This is a prescient move by FedEx and a service that is likely to incrementally improve with additional consumer benefits in the months and years to come for wine consumers.

For more information on this service, I’ve created a PDF that can be downloaded here.

Don’t Forget your Dreams

I was recently turned on to Kickstarter.com, a crowdsourcing investment site, when a friend of a friend was looking for money to finish a short film.  For a $10 dollar donation I’ll get my name in the credits of the movie.  More than anything, as an entrepreneur at heart, it’s nice to inexpensively help somebody out on a project that is a labor of their love and passion.


To the extent that Kickstarter.com is interesting to the wine enthusiast, there are a couple of wine-related projects in the midst of seeking funding, one of which is Boxxle from entrepreneur Tripp Middleton from North Carolina. 

Middleton is seeking to solve a dual dilemma with box wines.  First, box wines aren’t very aesthetically pleasing.  Middleton solves this with a sleek, polished stainless steel house for spigoted bags of wine.  Second, and more importantly, bag-in-a-box wines are gravity fed and the spigots are universally at the bottom of the box requiring the edge of the countertop or a hoist to get the wine in your glass.  Middleton solves this with a patent-pending process that is sufficiently vague enough that I can’t explain it, but allows the wine to dispense to the last drop with the spigot pleasingly raised for correct countertop pouring within the housing of the Boxxle.  While you can donate as little as $5, a donation of $75 or more effectively acts as a pre-order for the Boxxle when it goes into production. 

To watch a video on the Boxxle and the project, check out the Kickstarter site here.

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