Wine and ... globalization?
The subject of international wine economics may sound about as exciting as watching grass grow, but you might be surprised. Today's featured link - The Wine Economics Program at Adelaide University's Centre for International Economic Studies in Australia - offers a remarkable library of scholarly papers on wine-related topics that actually make this seemingly drab topic interesting.
Take "globalization," a topic that for most of us evokes vague impressions of gray-suited bankers pondering big-money issues behind closed doors while chanting protestors fight with SWAT-suited cops in the streets outside. But the University of Adelaide's Kym Anderson brought the story home to wine enthusiasts in clear, compelling language in her paper on globalization and wine.
When it comes to the wine industry, Anderson wrote, those who consider globalization a "bad thing ... worry that what for centuries has been characterized as largely a cottage industry, with its colorful personalities and wide variety of wines that differ from year to year because of the vagaries of weather or the vigneron's experimentation, will soon be difficult to distingush from any other high-tech industry with a small number of large firms churning out standardized products for global rather than just local markets."
Well, yes. In a long but well-parsed sentence, Anderson has captured the essence of an argument that's been raging among wine fanciers for years.
But this homogenization isn't going to happen, she argues, concluding, "With increasing affluence comes an increasing demand for many things including product variety (the spice of life)."
While the mass market may initially crave simple, industrial wines, she said, as a globalizing world economy develops a growing market of wine consumers, "over time many of those consumers will look for superior and more-varied wines. They will begin to differentiate between grape varieties and regions of origin and ... between brands and between labels within a brand. ...
"The new forces of globalization together with the boom in premium winegrape supplies will lead to more mergers, acquisitions and other alliances among wineries within and across national borders, but their success in the global marketplace will provide a slipstream in which astute smaller operators can also thrive."
You can read Anderson's full 26-page report on the Adelaide University Wine Economics Program Website at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/CIES/0125.pdf. (You must have the Adobe Acrobat program on your computer to read this format.)
But that's just the beginning. Click to the top of the site, http://www.adelaide.edu.au/CIES/wine.htm, for references to dozens of scholarly papers, theses and reports about the economics of the wine industry. Some are presented only as abstracts, with the full paper available for purchase, and many have a strongly Australian focus; but you'll find a wealth of free reading material here, much of it addressing international wine issues.
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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2002