I've been wanting to write this post for some time, but each time, it became too specific and autobiographical. You see, breaking up with someone in this business is more emotionally complex than one would expect. I've done it many times. I have parted ways with 17 different wineries in 5 years. 17! I've stopped working with some half dozen distributors. I've had brands traded a bunch of times that I had no control over. Each and every time, emotions, to varying degrees, were a side effect.
Then, yesterday, something happened, that had nothing to do with me: Allegrini dumped Winebow in favor of Gallo as a U.S. importer. Now, I could rant for 1000's of words about how Gallo is a bully and plonk factory, intermittently gobbling up formerly famed producers to try to add credentials to what is essentially a lowest common denominator operation. I could tell you all about how in some markets, they'll (allegedly) dangle 1 on 2 deals, just to grab points of distribution. But I won't mire in those details, let's just say, I don't love the way they (allegedly) operate and we don't exist in the same universe. On the other side, Leonardo LoCascio (Winebow) has built one of the most respected Italian portfolios in the country. I sold his wines 10 years ago while I lived in Southern California, and I liked their operation then and I respect it today. Oh, and I've always really liked the Allegrini wines.
So, Shanken Business Daily sends out their Wednesday a.m. news blast yesterday, announcing the Allegrini news. I read it, was dismayed, but didn't think much of it. Then a Facebook friend posted on our local Ohio Winebow reps wall-WTF? Allegrini? Here's the bummer-he didn't know yet. Winebow was assembled in Mexico for their annual company meeting and they were about to be told when Shanken and then Facebook broke the news. I can imagine how they all felt. Betrayal, frustration, heartbreak, depression. These are all normal. You spend your time and energy selling and promoting the wines, but once you get to a certain level and you start selling certain wines, you must become emotionally connected to those wines. This must have been the case here. We all spent time on our friend's Facebook wall consoling and bashing Gallo, and then word comes in that Leonardo said the following to his team: "Have an extra shot of tequila and move on". Boom. That's it. It's done. He's a smart man. Shit happens. As a bystander, this Gallo move bothered me. Leonardo was exactly right. You can't dwell on it. It's tough, but you can't. You will lose brands. You will lose friends. It's still, mostly because of the business. As much as I'd like to vilify Gallo, I can't. I don't know why they left, it may not have been anything juicy, it may have just been a better fit. Maybe the companies had grown apart. We can't worry about the salacious details. This is something that happens to EVERYONE in this business. Brand movement happens at every level. distributors, brokers, salespeople, owners, importers, winemakers, all change.
I've learned over the years that sometimes, things just don't make sense from a business perspective. Even though I'm 17 wineries lighter, I just had my best year by a mile. Sometimes subtracting makes you better. Most of us call upon the ancient art of Schaedenfreude to imagine that the winery will be worse off without us. Sometimes that's true. Sometimes its not. If you are in this business, know this-you will love and lose and love again. It's life, you do an extra shot of tequila and move on.
Contributing Op-Ed Writer: French Food Goes Down
3 hours ago