Has 'Premiumization' Gone Too Far in California Wine Country?

That's a fair question after the San Francisco Chronicle published an article that attributed "an unusually slow summer in Wine Country" to a feeling by "ordinary people" faced with "astronomical tasting fees" that Wine Country was no longer for them.

To be sure, the article noted that wineries have said they have raised tasting fees to offset higher costs of labor and production caused by the Covid pandemic, supply-chain issues and inflation.  Community Benchmark data cited by Wine Business showed average spending in tasting rooms had jumped about 25% between 2019 and this summer.  

And there are other problems beside price affecting Napa/Sonoma wineries.  For one, many now require reservations, which is a turn-off for some.  One person interviewedby the Chronicle noted that on several occasions he attempted to visit tasting rooms that were "by reservation only " and was let in because they were empty.  Wineries, of course, respond that the reservation system makes it easier to staff, provides more personal attention, food pairings, etc., all of which leads to larger purchases or wine club sign-ups.  

We wouldn't try to draw too many conclusions from this one story.  But it does seem to us that while bev/al is an affordable luxury, it may be wise to remember that when the consumer is getting squeezed, perhaps the emphasis should be more on affordable than on luxury.

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