Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial Expert Editorial: Why You Should Stop Buying Mass-Produced Wine

Expert Editorial: Why You Should Stop Buying Mass-Produced Wine

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How can the average American consumer find high-quality, better-tasting wines? 
For starters, stop buying wine at the grocery store.

By Greg Martellotto

 

Wine is incredibly romantic and shared during peak moments — think weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrating accomplishments, launching new ventures and concluding deals. Wine is also big business. 

In 2022, the U.S. wine business was estimated to have an economic impact of more than $276 billion in total economic activity; the value of U.S. wine retail sales is estimated at $80 billion. By way of comparison, the U.S. fresh beef market is estimated at $30 billion and the egg market is $15 billion. The U.S. leads the world in total wine consumption, but the market is dominated by a handful of companies producing serviceable but often “meh” wines. So how can the average American consumer find high-quality, better-tasting wines?  For starters, stop buying wine at the grocery store. 

Paint by numbers

For the most part, wine found in grocery stores is mass-produced by giant alcoholic beverage companies that are focused on quantity, not quality. These mass-produced wines can be fine for drinking in their youth. They are serviceable but hardly remarkable. It’s time to stop settling for average, mass-produced wines. 

Most people agree that monopolies aren’t good for consumers. Think of your internet service provider; you typically have one or two choices (and neither is great). They are okay, but customer service is hardly a priority. How many telephone company choices remain? How many telephone manufacturers are there? There aren’t that many car companies, either. Consolidation is a global trend, and the disappearance of mom-and-pop businesses means a decrease in diversity, passion, quality and craftsmanship. 

Unfortunately, the consolidation trend is also rampant in the wine business. In the late 1990s, there were more than 3,000 wine distributors in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 1,100. During the same time period, the number of U.S wineries has more than tripled to in excess of 11,000. While most of the distributors are small, local entrepreneurial endeavors serve a limited market; the top six wholesale wine distributors in the United States now control seven out of every 10 bottles of wine sold. Clearly, this has created a bottleneck that makes it exceedingly difficult for the multitude of available products to make it to consumers. 

Big names have essentially carved up the wholesale distribution market among themselves, creating an oligopoly. This is why you’ll see the same mass-market brands over and over again being sold in grocery stores. These wines tend to be homogenous — what I call, “paint by numbers,” wines. They’re manufactured wines, often adulterated with acid and additional sugary concentrate. These wines are created to serve a middle-of-the-road palate profile, delivered at a certain price. These wines are rarely distinctive or inspirational. 

Artistry and craftsmanship

But there’s good news: there’s never been a better time to be a wine lover. More wines from around the world are now accessible in the states; you just have to know where to shop. You have more access to more products than ever before, but you’re unlikely to find the best wines in your local grocery store. 

Wine is an extraordinary beverage that mirrors our own human evolution and civilization. There is an incredible array and diversity of wines that are produced all over the world between 30 to 50 degrees latitude on both sides of the equator.

Drinking wine from around the world is an opportunity to know other people, cultures and tastes. Amazingly, you can do this from your living room, just by buying wines from far-flung places. If you’re looking to find quality, flavorful wines, I highly recommend finding a source that you trust to provide quality wine recommendations. 

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Greg Martellotto

Greg Martellotto is the owner and founder of Big Hammer Wines (consumer DTC brand), B2B partner One Vine Wines and Martellotto Winery. Big Hammer Wines has access to 90+ rated quality wines sourced directly from growers in Italy and France. They come at an exceptional quality and value at every price point. Martellotto is 1 of 300 people worldwide who has earned the title Italian Wine Ambassador from the Vinitaly Academy. He also owns award-winning Martellotto Winery in California’s Santa Barbara County.

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