Wine has a target on its back
Wine is usually associated with a positive image from the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, to Jesus turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, wine has been associated with good vibes.
When drank in moderation, it was not considered bad for your health.
But this past year marked a turning point and wine instead of being exalted is facing attacks from many circles.
Health Industry Attacks
The attacks on wine’s harm to one’s health are coming internationally and from the U.S.
Shockingly, the attacks in the U.S. do not come from places like Mississippi and Utah, but from Oregon, a top 5 wine producing state in the U.S.
The Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division made a video, which shows a father shopping with his daughter putting a case of beer in his cart and then grabbing a bottle of wine. And when asked by the daughter why she can’t drink wine, he answers “because it is not good for you.” The daughter asks the father, “why do you drink it?”, which makes him answer “honestly it’s a real good question” and he puts the bottle of wine back on the shelf. The commercial is named Rethink the Drink.
Interestingly enough the beer stays in the cart, while the negative aspects of wine are highlighted. Oregon Recovery an anti-alcohol group endorsed the premises of the commercial and called into question the state’s wisdom of spending $770K in promoting the Oregon wine industry when it stated “The question is why are we spending $770,000 annually on promoting the consumption of a so-called premium but toxic, addictive, carcinogenic glass of pinot?”
Surprisingly Oregon is attacking wine, even though the Oregon wine industry generates $7.19 billion in economic activity in the State of Oregon. 
Additionally, wine also faces international challenges.
Last year the WHO came out with the position that no amount of alcohol consumed is safe for your health. But it is not the conclusion that is shocking but how they get to it. WHO takes the position that “risks start from the first drop”.
So even the Priest sipping from his wine during communion is at health risk according to WHO. This all or nothing position seems extreme to me.
I actually know some priests who abstain from alcohol and whose only taste of alcohol comes during communion time. I think it is really farfetched to believe the small amount of sacramental wine could be responsible for causing or be linked to a deadly disease for them.
Problematically, the all or nothing position may come to the U.S. shores. A U.S. committee will study for the potential revamping of health guidelines, the relationship between alcohol and adverse health impacts. The U.S. could evolve from the present moderation position of one drink per day for women, two for men, to the WHO absolutist position that any alcohol is harmful.
The WHO requirements should not be dismissed as they are already adversely impacting the marketplace.
Ireland is mandating specific requirements for health labeling on any alcohol sold into the country. A new label with all red capital letters in Times New Roman font. The labeling will require alcohol producers to put on the label warnings that alcohol causes liver disease, a link between alcohol and fatal cancers and an image of a pregnant woman with a line drawn through. Now there is no asterisks allowed for the first two risks, which explains that very moderate drinkers don’t face high probabilities of liver or other cancers.
The wine industry after enjoying 27 years of consecutive gains is expected to decline for the second consecutive year.
For small and limited production wineries, DTC shipping maybe the only route to market. But now there is a movement afoot to shut down or limit the DTC market.
Wisconsin signed into a law, a new law that will make it prohibitive for common carriers to ship wine into Wisconsin and if there is not a legislative fix within a year, the common carriers will most likely stop shipping wine. Nineteen years after the United States Supreme Court settled Granholm, there is a movement to return consumer access to a Pre-Granholm world.
Second, the race for states to illegally license fulfillment houses will lead to less options for small wineries to engage in the DTC market. With the compliance burdens becoming more extreme each year, some will leave the fulfillment industry and many won’t enter. There will be fulfillment house consolidation, similar to wholesaler consolidation, yes, less players to serve more wineries.
The real threat of costly government mandates for the wine industry has arrived. The most glaring being nutritional labeling requirements for wine bottles. The TTB decided that in the near future it will engage in a Proposed Rulemaking process to determine how nutritional requirements on the wine bottle will be addressed. The nutritional label requirements will make the wine industry a target for class action lawsuits. History demonstrates that the food industry with its heavy nutritional information listings, faces many class action lawsuits on the most ridiculous and miniscule of issues.
If this government mandate goes through, expect a negative impact for the wine industry.
The second bad mandate is the California recycling program that mandates specific label requirements. For small non-California wineries, the cost of creating a label for California maybe cost prohibitive and acts as a barrier to entry for small producers.
Unfortunately, governments can’t help themselves with policies that could hurt the wine industry.
Unforeseen government attacks
Similar to Oregon, Napa County has decided to bite the hand that feeds. In a lawsuit involving small wineries, Hoopes Vineyards, Smith-Madrone, and Summit Lake, there is a dispute over the rights of these small wineries to hold events such as tastings on their premises and whether other violations of law are committed. In Napa County wineries seeking permits after 1990 had to go through a discretionary permit process, which could impact their rights to offer tastings and tours.  The three aforementioned wineries were permitted prior to 1990 and defaulted to their rights under their specific permits.
Problematically, Arthur Hartinger, outside counsel for Napa County stated, “A use permit exemption does not allow for tours, tastings, or consuming wine on the premises.” Something he seemed to contradict under deposition.
Throughout the years these wineries were able to operate under their grandfathered conditions, a lawsuit alleges that the Napa County government has encroached on these rights and has cited wineries for violations, even when they were acting in accordance with their grandfathered permits.
What is shocking is Napa County has decided to go after its cash cow industry and hurt three small players. One would think in wine country the goal should be to enhance the economic environment for wineries. But it looks as unforeseen government mandates are causing harm to the small wine industry.
The wine industry is under attack from many different angles from zealous government officials to misguided bureaucrats to people distorting the image of wine.
2024 will be a big year in wine, the declines of 2022 and 2023 don’t lie, and if attacks on wine are successful, we may see further declines in the future.
We can only hope 2024 sees a reversal in fortune and fortitude to fight by those in the wine industry. Our opponents have already marked their lines in the sand, time to stand firm and wipe those lines out!