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Psst: There’s a global wine shortage. Pass it on.

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If I see one more report of a “global wine shortage,” I’m gonna hurl.

It all started with a report from Morgan Stanley, the big investment bank, that “Global wine consumption has been on the rise almost without interruption…since the late 1990s,” while at the same time, “World production hasn’t managed to keep pace.” Next thing you know, every news outlet in the world is screaming that the sky is falling. My in-box has been filled with such reports, thanks to Google Alerts. Here, for instance, and here, and here, and here.

The Morgan Stanley report went viral, instantly, but does it hold water? My first reaction, yesterday, was not to believe it: California, which still supplies the lion’s share of wine to the U.S., had its biggest crop ever in 2012, and 2013’s harvest apparently also will be a large one. (We don’t have the details until the Dept. of Food and Agriculture issues its Crush Report next year.) And, this just in: In Washingron State, the 2013 harvest will be the biggest ever.

My skepticism also was fueled by my increasing suspicion of “news” on the Internet. Reporters eager to file deadlines rush to embrace findings from “authoritative” sources, and Morgan Stanley certainly seems like an authoritative source, doesn’t it? And yet we’ve seen all too often how “authoritative sources”, including–gasp!–banks, sometimes get things wrong. (Ever hear of sub-prime mortgages?)

Then lo and behold, Thursday morning’s San Francisco Chronicle had a front page article in the print edition on the subject. The online version was headlined “Experts dismiss prediction of global wine shortage.” Here it is.

In it, the paper’s reporter, Stacy Finz, cited numerous people holding important positions in the wine trade, banking and analysis, each of whom said, in effect, that the Morgan Stanley report is twaddle. Go ahead, read Stacy’s article.

The dangers of mindlessly embracing every new report or study without subjecting it to proper journalistic scrutiny are obvious. A local ABC News affiliate in reaction to the report ran this online article suggesting that wine lovers “might want to start stockpiling your favorite bottles.” Forbes picked up on this and wondered if the looming “shortage” doesn’t “present a good investment opportunity.” Next thing you know, here’s the L.A. Times, parroting the warning: “You may want to start stocking up now.”

It’s like that old party game of telegraph, where one person whispers something in someone’s ear and then, ten people later, the message is total gibberish.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not disputing that there may be some upcoming shortage of wine in the future. Just last May, I blogged about similar reports that were surfacing about global shortages. However, as one of my esteemed commenters–the Hosemaster of Wine himself–wryly noted at that time, “isn’t there a shortage every ten years or so?”, the implication being that perhaps, just perhaps such dire predictions of shortages might benefit certain parties who stand to make more money if people start hoarding and prices rise. Who could such parties be? Hmm.

What troubles me about this latest feeding frenzy of media speculation is what has long bothered me about the Internet: “news” spreads virally around the globe and is routinely accepted as true by lazy reporters who then in turn are cited by even lazier bloggers, ad nauseum, until everybody believes it, except for the inconvenient fact that It may not be true. And if it’s not? Nobody’s going to come back in two years and accuse Morgan Stanley of getting their facts wrong. And even if someone did, I’m sure Morgan Stanley wouldn’t care.

  1. Steve, isn’t it about time you stopped referring knee-jerkingly to bloggers as lazy by definition? The “viral” examples you cite in your first paragraph are from news websites, not bloggers. Yet you go on to conclude that this is yet another example of how ““news” spreads virally around the globe and is routinely accepted as true by lazy reporters who then in turn are cited by even lazier bloggers, ad nauseum…” Ad nauseum? Really? How about sharing a single one example from these “even lazier bloggers”?

    Most wine pros I know reacted calmly to the Morgan Stanley report as being obviously flawed. Perhaps the best rebuttal is this one, via Reuters — http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/11/01/theres-no-global-wine-shortage/. Felix Salmon did his homework, and did not apparently feel the need to tar and feather nameless bloggers.

    The only wine shortage I see these days is bad wine. In fact, thanks to wine raters like you, it’s become near impossible to find any wine rated under 85 points.

  2. This is nothing more than a pump and dump scheme for Treasury stock.

  3. I have echo the sentiment of the first sentence!

    However, the problem with the fast pace of news, which isn’t just an internet issue, is significant. How do we ensure reliable well researched news that no one wants to pay for?

  4. LOL. Cameron Hughes rocks

  5. Hear, hear, Steve. Add to it that so many news articles on the web today (CNN, NBC, etc) seem to post articles without any proof-reading oversight. I read at least five typos a day on the web. What a joke. Just because you can get the news out faster, doesn’t mean your company needs to look like they hired editors with GEDs. How many more years until the general population thinks irrigation for crops should be with Gatorade? Idiocracy. Scary. As a Millenial, thanks for the good grammar (99%) on your blogs Steve. Cheers!

  6. Keasling, only because I’ve done it and been called out on it, I’ve got to let you know that YOU spelled Millennial incorrectly… ;)

  7. @KyleSchlacter – that was about 99%. Plus, I’m not on salary for my grammar…

  8. The Morgan Stanley report went viral, instantly, but does it hold water? NO !

    Cheers !!!! Keith Miller

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