One of the fascinating aspects of wine culture is the importance of small artisan wineries that are essentially family-run businesses. The wine industry would be much less interesting without these “labors of love” that nourish our desire for a human face behind the products we consume. But industry consolidation is an economic fact of life and when these small wineries begin to attract attention, they are often eaten up by the large conglomerates—sometimes they are chewed up and spit out.
Thomas Pellechia’s new book Over a Barrel: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Taylor Wine Company tells just such a story. I remember drinking Taylor wines when I lived near the Finger Lakes in the early 1970’s.
The Wine Economist has a review of the book:
The big story is a familiar one. A successful family business expands and for a variety of reasons becomes a publicly traded corporation. The founding family eventually cedes control (does this sound a bit like the Robert Mondavi winery story so far?) and a string of corporate mergers and acquisitions follow. The most valuable business assets of the original company (which included Taylor’s effective distribution network, according to Pellechia) are exploited while the natural foundation of the business (vineyards and wine) deteriorate from lack of investment.
This happens far too often. All the more reason to drink local and support your local wineries.