Wine is Next

I know there are a number of you who read Vinography that aspire to be in the wine business. Heck, don’t we all harbor even the tiniest of fantasies about making a fabulous living being a winemaker, a sommelier, a vineyard owner, or (ahem) a wine writer? There may be no hope for me (what kind of writer does make a fabulous living?) but the rest of you might just be in the right place at the right time.

Courtesy of Tom over at Fermentations, comes this juicy tidbit: Entrepreneur magazine has added Wine as one of the top 13 hot businesses for 2005 and have proclaimed the entire sector as a growth industry.

It’s the nectar of the gods-and the nectar of Americans, too, apparently. The number of Americans who drank wine at least once a week increased from 19.2 million in 2000 to 25.4 million in 2003, according to the Wine Market Council. And it seems that American consumers have also developed a serious affection for all things wine-related.

While starting a winery is one way to get into the wine business, you’ll wait at least seven years before producing your first bottle. Creating a business peripheral to wineries could provide a quicker path to success. From wine educators and wine game inventors to wine accessory manufacturers and builders who design wine cellars, entrepreneurs are entering this market from all sides.

With a background in the restaurant industry, focusing on wine, Kyl Cabbage got into the peripheral side of the wine business by opening The Wine Experience in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1995. Cabbage wanted to create an environment that would draw everyone from knowledgeable wine enthusiasts to newbies. “We had to dispel the thought that wine is only for the rich,” says Cabbage, 44. The Wine Experience provides a forum for wine tasting and wine education, while offering a selection of over 2,800 labels for sale-the company even coordinates wine-tasting trips to Napa Valley. With two locations in the Des Moines area, The Wine Experience is slated to gross $3 million this year.

Targeting baby boomers is a no-brainer in this industry, but wine consumption is also growing steadily among Millennials in their early 20s, says Vic Motto, chairman and CEO of Global Wine Partners, a global wine investment bank in St. Helena, California. He also notes that the market is starting to shift: An overabundance of grapes in the past few years had lowered the price of wine, but a smaller harvest in coming years will raise wine prices a bit in this cyclical industry. “It’s a highly competitive industry,” says Motto, but he notes there is still room for people to carve out a market niche.

Tom has some of his own thoughts about what the areas of opportunity are. Whatever your interest in wine, perhaps it can figure into your upcoming new years resolutions, or if you’re like me, just the usual dreams of sugar plums (and Sangiovese).