Remember PT Barnum?
Labor Day. Onward. Rolling the stone up the familiar hill can lead to a moderate case of myopia, if you don’t take the next exit and look around every once in awhile. Meanwhile, it’s a big world out there, and we’re looking to get the maximum thrill from our time on the ride. Ergo, we do what we can to keep our blindness from becoming either acute or chronic.
As Richard Brautigan once noted, “the biggest surprise is when you come gradually to realize that nothing surprises you anymore.” Word.
We’re fortunate enough here in our little slice of the wine business to do a tremendous amount of our commerce with families, farmers, smaller-scale distributors and importers—people whose labors and the way they think about it are quite a bit different from the big players. Mere DAvids to the Big Brands’ Goliaths. Independents. Still, once or twice a week, I have a glance at Wine Business News, or one of Marvellous Marvin Shanken’s trade publications, just to see what’s happening out there “the Industry,” given that we’re part of that universe and the ripples from its movers and shakers affect our world out here on the edge.
It’s pretty standard fare: water issues in Norcal, weird weather in France, somebody buying, somebody selling, bigger grenache yields on less acreage, a lawsuit here, one there and the usual litany of mergers, acquisitions et cetera. In a business that’s essentially agricultural, where nothing’s really a given until the harvest is done and the wines is in the bottle, there’s one thing you can count on when you read about its heavyweights and other contenders: the bigger the brand, the further removed from actual dirt and honest-to-goodness grapes its players get, and the more jargon it takes to express really basic ideas. You can count on it.
But still. Sometimes you just have to shake your head in amazement. This past week’s wonder is both brand-new word and a whole new category: masstige. That’s “mass-produced, prestige wine” brands. In an interview with Wine Business News, Treasury Wine Estates CEO Michael Clarke expounds on his leadership in the company’s “acquisition campaign” to reverse several years’ trend of flat sales growth. The level of linguistic obfuscation throughout the piece is pretty much what you’d expect from an executive of his stature: “”and there is an opportunity to build on top of that, especially luxury and massitge portfolio where doing well and to accelerate that beyond just organic growth…” “we have shown the discipline that we can take costs out…and we can over-deliver…and can do the approporiate acquisition to build on the great momentum we are building in luxury and masstige.” We are not talking major acquisitions, we are talking bolt-ons.” Blah-blah-blah. Bolt away, then.
“Luxury and masstige.” “Bolt-ons.” There’s another whole post right there (coming soon). Meanwhile, I’m thanking my lucky stars I don’t have to get up in the morning and concern myself with prestige, or luxury, or bolt-on acquisitions. Whew!
Think I’ll go home and find something decidedly un-luxurious, non-prestigious, grown in small quantities and maybe not even attached to anything else -- although I bet it'll play well with dinner. It’ll be delicious.