Wine: Now THAT’S a Lousy Business

As many of you know, the wine business was hit pretty hard in the recent recession. Lots of wineries went out of business, and lots of wine sat around unsold, which meant people lost a lot of money. From the big Vegas restaurants that started refusing their allocations of Harlan Estate and Colgin, to the little producers whose mailing list customers decided they could forgo buying the next vintage, and instead pick up something at Trader Joes, lots of people were hurting.

We’re still seeing (if you know where to look) the fallout of the downturn, as wineries quietly change hands, and as wine continues to pour into the new outlets that have sprung up to help producers at least break even while moving their inventory.

While I’m not in a position (nor nearly knowledgeable enough) to suggest that the industry may be turning a corner, some basic indicators are trending positive.

One of the most prominent measures, the California-based Wine Institute’s calculation of domestic wine sales, showed a 7% increase in all retail wine sales in 2010.

Combined with a 26% increase in exports in the same time period, and the somewhat dubious announcement that America now consumes the most wine of any country in the world by total volume, things certainly seem to be headed in the right direction.

Last but not least, let’s figure in the most recent, and potentially earth shattering announcement of all: that after nearly 13 years in business, Wine.Com made a profit last quarter for the first time ever.

Now if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. I nearly fell off my chair.