Writing in the Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports: “Expect to pay higher prices for wine this fall — and prepare for the possibility that your favorite wines may not make it to your local store. The reasons have nothing to do with wine itself, and everything to do with logistics. Your favorite Burgundy could be stuck anywhere along the route to your door, says wine logistics expert MaryAnn Pisani.”
Pisani is the chief revenue officer for MHW, a Long Island-based company that does basically everything in the wine industry except make and sell wine. MHW is a licensed importer and distributor, it handles regulatory paperwork, and it arranges warehouse space, trucks, and everything else in the wine logistical chain. Pisani says that right now every link in that chain is more stressed than she has ever seen.
“These are things I’ve never seen in 25 years,” Pisani said. “I’ve never seen product that’s not moving out of the warehouse. That holdup has never occurred before.”
Pisani says the crisis started before the pandemic because of the tariffs on European wine. She said a lot of big importers, surprised by the first round of tariffs, decided to bring in containers of wine before more tariffs could be imposed.
“It created a backlog in the warehouse system in the US,” Pisani told Wine-Searcher. “The warehouses were already pretty full.”
The first link to fail was shipping. Americans have been shopping online since the pandemic started, so much so that most container ships just want to work the lucrative China-US route. Wine is not the only product that suddenly found it difficult to get a ride from Europe or South America to the US.
“You have a massive backup of containers,” Pisani said. “The steamship lines are actually charging extra just to secure a booking. We’ve had boxes that have sat for months in warehouses in France and not moved. They’ve been picked up at the winery, brought to the port and never moved from there.”
Then there are dockworker shortages: “The port of Oakland’s been running 20-25 days behind,” Pisani said. “We have a box that’s been sitting in the port of Oakland since April 27.” Then, let’s say you get your container of wine to the port. You need a drayman, a specialized trucker who delivers containers to and from the port. Except, of course, there’s a drayman shortage. And when you do find a drayman, “the warehouse doesn’t have room for it”, Pisani said. “You have people storing product in a yard somewhere. People have product stored in multiple warehouses, which is terrible for logistics.”
Pisani says she believes the situation will ease by spring 2022. But unfortunately, the peak season for selling wine is from late October through early December. Therefore, expect to pay more for wine this fall, and if there are wines that you really have to have, buy them when you see them, because the next vintage might not arrive on time.
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