Editor's Letter

 

What's Behind Our Numbers?

May 2010
 
by Jim Gordon
 
 
Grapes and wine are your products. Information is our product. At Wines & Vines, we labor every day to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date information in our daily web Headlines and the print magazine’s monthly feature stories, columns and other departments. A portion of that information is originally collected and stored as data, which we then use in the Wines & Vines Directory & Buyer’s Guide, in the W&V Online Marketing System and in other diverse ways to serve you as a reader.

This massive collection of facts, figures, names and numbers populates a database that we call the Wines & Vines IndustryBase.

For example, on April 8 Jane Firstenfeld wrote a Headline for winesandvines.com announcing that the number of North American wineries had passed the 7,000 mark for the first time. It’s pretty amazing to think that would-be vintners have continued to create new wineries during the recession, at a rate of almost 400 in the past year. But you have seen other reports about how many wineries exist, some of them with bigger numbers than ours. Where did our number—specifically 7,011—come from, and why did we think it was worth your attention?

Comprehensive updates
To begin with, every year for more than 40 years our staff has contacted every winery in North America to confirm that they are in business, and to collect their pertinent information. Today, we (several staff members, that is) gather new and revised information from them on 24 data points. We e-mail them, snail-mail them, fax them and call them until we get through. In addition, our staff now does continual updating of database information throughout the year, whenever we learn that a fact or figure has changed. (Please phone or e-mail Andrea Hatfield here in our office: (866) 453-9704, andrea@winesandvines.com, if you ever need to update your own company’s information.)

That’s the easy stuff. Beyond that, staff members also conduct meticulous, invaluable research with proprietary methods to comb government and institutional records for source data to adjust, correct, update and improve our IndustryBase. We differentiate between bonded wineries and virtual wineries, and we use clearly defined, well-tested definitions for these. We correct for duplicate permits from the same winery. We delete out-of-date entries that some agencies don’t. We apply reason and analysis to the process to refine the numbers.

Because of our multiple sources and evaluative approach, we provide more completeness and accuracy than the other number collectors. The government agencies focus on collecting taxes and fees. The winery and vineyard organizations focus on marketing and education. To present a comprehensive picture of the wine industry, we take the facts and figures more seriously than any other entity.

Probably the greatest compliments we receive are from would-be competitors who try to borrow our data and post it on their own websites or print it in their own publications as if it were their own. It happens more often than you might think, and reassures us how valuable our information is. Our little company vigorously and regularly defends its copyright on this information and stops the plagiarizers from exploiting it.

New numbers partner
Recently Wines & Vines has partnered with a new source in the wine industry to make our information even richer. SymphonyIRI Group is helping us keep you on top of wine sales trends. In this issue you will see the second in a new series of articles regarding off-premise wine sales based on SymphonyIRI’s proprietary numbers. This Chicago-based market information company collects scan data from thousands of supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores across the country.

The gist of the news this month is that off-premise sales of domestic table wine have grown by a respectable 5.3% since this time last year. It’s been widely reported that consumers are eager for value wines since the recession started, and the Symphony IRI data continue to confirm this trend, but that’s not the whole story. California wines priced at $20 and up now have one of the fastest growth rates in stores. Washington wines from $15-$19.99 increased 33.5% during the most recent four weeks. Domestic wines now claim 78% of the market, having gained back market share from imports since 2005. These are just a few examples of the kinds of detail we will bring you monthly with the help of SymphonyIRI.

Thanks for letting me go behind the scenes on the sources of our data, and the related issue of trust. I hope you find the explanation useful, and see why I feel so strongly about it. Any reader who has further questions or comments may contact me directly at (415) 453-9700 or jim@winesandvines.com.

To present an accurate picture of the industry, we take winery data more seriously than any other entity does.
 
SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
 
SEE OTHER EDITIONS OF THIS COLUMN  CURRENT COLUMN ARTICLES »