News In Wine And The Supply Chain

Posted by Barterhouse on October 29, 2021

When the world shut its doors in March, 2020, the ramifications were huge. One thing that was clear though, was that without restaurants and bars open, Americans ended up sheltering in place with a bottle of red or white to keep themselves company. But now over a year and a half later, being able to drink a stellar bottle of wine is in jeopardy because of the precarious weather, the disjointed way the world is recovering from the worst of the virus, and especially the lingering supply chain issues. 

It is no secret that the supply chain is broken in many places. And when we are talking about producing something as precious as wine, there are just too many places the process could break down. To start the process rolling, the wineries need to have a great season of growing, but unfortunately, there have been some catastrophic weather events in the last few years. Add to that the fact that once the wine is created, it needs to be bottled and then shipped out. Then the bottles of wine need to be imported where there are truckers waiting at the ports to transport the wine to distributors, and eventually, the wine makes it to stores and restaurants. 

The problem of importing a bottle of wine is twofold: wineries and bottlers can’t get the goods they need to create the bottle of wine in the first place, and then once the bottle is created, they can’t get it distributed in a timely manner to the consumer. What once took 30 days is now taking approximately 3 months. And for restaurants and bars that are waiting, as well as private citizens who want to serve good wines in their homes, the problem is growing.

There is a bottleneck at the ports, with ships waiting days and weeks to be unloaded. Several weeks ago President Biden ordered the ports to be open 24/7 to deal with the log jam, but truckers across the nation are still in short supply, so even if the ports are open all night, that doesn’t mean there is anywhere for the freight to go. 

And the wine business is feeling the pinch. What was once a “just in time” kind of business, where people ordered wine without any forethought because they didn’t want it sitting around, is now a big mess. Consumers got used to the fact that wine would just appear quickly and when needed, but now it takes a lot more time and forethought to get it where it needs to be. 

According to Wine Mag, “Many imported components are in short supply everywhere, and industries are constantly lagging behind as the imbalance of shipments globally is having a knock-on effect on production,” says Antonio Mendonça, export director for Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal.

The problem is not just getting a finished bottle of wine to the bar or restaurant, but creating the bottle in the first place. With a shortage of glass bottles, paper, ink for the labels, and cardboard, wine production and distribution have been slowed at every level. Along with the physical elements, the weather has slowed the production of the grapes themselves. 

As the old saying goes, time is money, so for every part of the journey that is sluggish, the price of the shipping costs goes up. Ann Boucher, the European Portfolio Director of Cutting Edge Selections, an Ohio-based distributor, appraises the shipping costs as having increased by about 55%. One of the big additions to the bills is a rental charge to store containers while waiting for trucks. “Because our containers languish at port waiting for a driver, we now regularly pay demurrage charges,” said Boucher. This also leads to the possibility of people ordering too much wine, or reordering wine they may have previously signed up for in order to avoid being out of stock on something. 

Some exporters have changed the game, opting to send their wine by air instead of by sea. But there is also a backlog in the sky. Erwan Leteurtre, the president of  VignoblExport, a France-based freight forwarder that masterminds the transport and logistics of how goods are shipped, said,  “The carriers increase the means but the costs explode and this creates tension for the future.”

The bad news is, with the holidays coming up, things are bound to get worse before they get better. If a bottle of wine is taking 3 months to import, then it is already too late to order in time for the holidays. And according to the Labor Department, the price for wine at home in September increased 1.6% from the same time last year. With so many surcharges added to distributors, the price is bound to increase. 

But despite the fact that there is so much turmoil in the wine world, there is one thing that you can count on. Barterhouse Wines will be here for you offering you the best of imported wines with no delays or worries. We take great pains to find the most exquisite wines and have them ready for you to purchase without a lot of hassle.

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