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Tasting PanelJan.11 .pdf


Original filename: Tasting PanelJan.11.pdf
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ou may have never heard of the American Wine
Society or had them at your establishment for
a tasting. But they are changing the way
winemakers sell to the American consumer and
are as knowledgeable as most winemakers.
Just ask David Forsyth, winemaker at
Mercer Estates in Washington State’s Yakima
Valley. During his tasting of Mercer whites at
the American Wine Society (AWS) conference in November, a member raised his
hand and wanted to know whether Forsyth
used sulfites. “At any American Wine Society
event, there are a number of winemakers in
the crowd. They are extremely knowledgeable,” Forsyth says.
In fact, many American Wine Society
members are certified wine judges, make
wine themselves or are reputable wine educators. “We train people to be serious wine
judges,” says Willis Parker, President of
the organization. “We teach people how
to truly appreciate wine. You really get
an appreciation for what a winemaker
is going through when you’re trying to
make a five-gallon batch.”

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The American Wine Society has
more than 4,000 members, who spend
upwards of $30 million a year on wine.
That’s why the likes of Planet Bordeaux
sponsored the organization’s 2010 conference and has strongly targeted this
group to promote the Bordeaux and
Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs, which represent 55 percent of all the Bordeaux
wines consumed in the world.
“These people are our ambassadors,”
says Xavier Milhade, owner of Château
Recougne and Château Montcabrier.
“They understand our price and quality.”
Jana Kravitz of Planet Bordeaux
says the American Wine Society is
a strategic partner in the effort to
reacquaint American consumers with
Bordeaux. “The value for the money
is unbeatable, but Bordeaux remains
complicated and scary,” Kravitz says.
“[American consumers] think they
can only have it if it’s expensive. We
are bringing the fact that Bordeaux is
valuable and affordable. The American
Wine Society is a great audience of
consumers; it is made for consumers
and is very important to our strategy.”

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One reason the American Wine
Society is so appealing to winemakers is the ongoing distribution and
retail consolidation, says Jim Bernau
of Willamette Valley Vineyards, who
spoke at the 2010 conference. “It’s
getting harder to reach consumers
through normal channels because
of consolidation. There used to be
distributors serving as evangelists, but
those days are gone now,” Bernau says.
“Small retailers are being crowded out
by large retailers, where the person
making buying decisions may live in a
different state.”
For these reasons, Bernau believes,
reaching consumers through the
American Wine Society has never
been more valuable. In Massachusetts
several years ago, he reached out to the
Chesapeake Chapter of the AWS before
a tasting. One guy told his friends, who
told his friends, who told his friends,
etc. The whole chapter—and then
some—showed up to the tasting. Now,
Willamette Valley Vineyards is one of
the bestselling wines in the area.
“Consumers are making more of a
personal identification with producers

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and are working very hard to minimize
the economic impact of middlemen,”
he says.
And that’s where the American Wine
Society has made perhaps the biggest
impact. It is introducing the likes of
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Mercer,
Bordeaux wines and many others
to savvy wine consumers. Members
travel the world in packs, hitting every
vineyard possible, bringing home more

cases than most retailers receive from
the producers.
It’s this enthusiasm, this lightening in
the bottle that Charles Krug Winery is
hoping to capture in 2011. Parker says
the famous Napa Valley producer has
agreed to participate in the conference.
“Things are definitely looking up for
us,” Parker says.
And, apparently, for the American
Wine Society sponsors.

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Tasting PanelJan.11.pdf - page 1/2
Tasting PanelJan.11.pdf - page 2/2

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