“Eat, drink, and be merry!” The holidays are upon us and it is time to celebrate with family and friends. But if you are trying to get some wine for your celebrations, you might find that your favorite red is out of stock, or more expensive than usual. If this is the case, please don’t shoot the messenger. The whole world is topsy-turvy right now, with a clogged supply chain, shipping and trucking problems, and a labor shortage. Adding to the general mayhem, the world of wine is experiencing its own problems with missing glass supplies to bottle the wine, weather problems reducing grape production, and global warming affecting wine
The wine business does not move quickly. So if you want wine on your shelves today, you need to have ordered it months ago. And if distributors wanted to distribute it today, the winemakers needed to produce it years ago. The unfortunate news is that shortages in glass, cardboard, and other necessities will likely affect the wine world long into the future. Buying wine is not like stockpiling for a snowy winter. Most people have previously ordered wine on an as-needed basis, and are now forced to think ahead more than ever before. The product shortages have never been experienced before. For instance, glass factories are like dinosaurs. It is not easy to get them going, so there really is no quick fix to this problem, but more of a trial and error type cobbling of ideas together and trying to make something work.
With glass and cardboard in short supply, even seemingly simple things like not having the cardboard containers needed to ship the bottled wine can have long-lasting consequences. If a restaurant can’t get its favorite or go-to vintage, it will be forced to go to something else. And there is simply no guarantee that they will ever circle back around to the first wine. Austin Beeman is the vice president of marketing at Cutting Edge Selections, an importer and distributor in the Midwest said, “The retailers and restaurants that would have sold those wines are now selling something else. Once you lose a placement, especially a glass pour, it is very difficult to get it back.”
In addition to the raw materials needed to make and bottle wine, there is nothing short of a bottle-neck in the wine transport industry. “Supply constraints are always popping up—but never to the extent and scope that we’re seeing now,” says Nima Ansari, spirits buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits in Manhattan. Preparing for the holiday crunch requires “a full court press of checking in daily on ETAs, quantities, and anticipating needs—and with the assumption that further delays will continue at least for the foreseeable future.”
The business of trucking in Europe, where much of the wine that ends up in the United States originates, has hit a snag, with freight fare increases, lack of truck drivers, and general shipping chaos. The new mandate that truck drivers who cross country lines show a Green Pass is just making things worse. This mandatory Covid-19 pass for truckers is exacerbating the problem. Out of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers, and warehouse workers, “between 25 and 30%” do not hold the Green Pass and thus won’t be eligible to work in Italy. This will further delay the already snarled route from vineyard to table.
As most things do, the wine debacle all comes down to one thing: money. Winemakers are doing their best to absorb the extra costs without passing them on to consumers. But they can’t hold out forever. “With our glass going up almost double, the hardest thing will be for us to absorb this cost,” says Julien Teichmann, winemaker at Keller Estate in Petaluma, California.
Sam Filmus, president of California-based importer ImpEx Beverages, is also trying not to pass on costs to consumers. Filmus is trying to circumvent the trucking woes by flying his wine. But recently costs have more than doubled to $50 for a case of six bottles. “We’re absorbing these added costs because we feel it is right to not pass them onto the consumer,” Filmus adds.
So how long will these wine woes last? Noone knows for sure, but this is not the type of business that can move on a dime. “If container capacity frees up in 12 months, the chain will move closer to equilibrium, but it could be longer term, two or three years,” says Rich Chapman is the chief supply chain officer at Saxco, an international company that provides packaging solutions to the wine industry. Chapman. “It’s anyone’s guess.”
Patience with the wine industry is the first order of business, because there really is no telling when all of the kinks in the system will be worked out. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and order your wine from Barterhouse. We do the hard work of importing for you, and our wines never go out of style. This way, you will be prepared with your favorite wines for the holidays and beyond.