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As a consequence, owners of tens of thousands of acres of vineyards are converting them to other uses. Although disastrous for growers like La Vine, declining grape prices have helped many wineries by reducing their raw material costs. But they also have contributed to the drop in wine prices that has pinched producers the last three years. Lower prices and stagnating sales spell profit squeeze. Exactly how well--or poorly--the biggest producers are doing is difficult to discern. For instance, Seagram Wine Co. One security analyst who follows the company believes its U. The capital-heavy requirements of wineries of all sizes have put many producers deep in debt.

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And slumping sales, prices and profits have caused a number to fall behind on loan payments. One debt-beset producer, Stony Ridge Winery in the Livermore Valley east of Oakland, shut down last December and went into voluntary receivership. Others may not be far behind. Consultant Vare estimates that 50 to small California wineries are available for sale or would welcome a financial partner. However, the general shake-out of undercapitalized, less efficient wineries that has been predicted for a decade has still not materialized.

One reason is that many of the small wineries that have proliferated in recent years are weekend labors of love of affluent lawyers, doctors, dentists and others who would hate to sell out.

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Jim Spaulding is among the weekend laborers of love. A former medical reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, he grew grapes in his suburban Milwaukee backyard and fermented wine in his refrigerator as a hobby, before moving to Berkeley in to teach journalism at the University of California. He and his then-wife Barbara bought 30 acres near Calistoga as a future retirement vineyard, and only later started the winery to provide a home for their grapes.

During the school year James C. Spaulding the professor lives in a rented house in Berkeley, commuting on weekends to Calistoga. There Jim Spaulding the wine company president puts on his dungarees and work boots, rolls up his sleeves and pitches in at the winery. The way of life has continued, even though the Spauldings ended their year marriage last year.

While living apart--he in an apartment in Calistoga, she in a converted prune-drying shed on a hillside vineyard outside town--they remain friends and business partners. Stonegate Winery started showing a profit in , four years after it opened, and has made money ever since, he says. However, investment in new equipment and buildings has produced a negative cash flow in many years. Although Stonegate and many other wineries have cut their prices to remain competitive, many producers have debt obligations that can be covered only by selling all the wine they produce at relatively high prices.

They will drink less wine but buy a better bottle of wine.

At the same time, economy brands and some mid-priced brands have lost share. ISC Wines is introducing a new line of vintage-dated, premium-priced Sonoma County varietal wines at the same time that it is trying to reposition its old Italian Swiss Colony brand from an economy-priced jug wine to a popular-priced brand like Almaden, Paul Masson and Inglenook.

Lejon wines have been reformulated to reduce the tartness of the whites and the tannic taste of the reds.

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Labels feature a series of impressionistic paintings of country scenes and village streets in pastel colors, to project a feeling of warmth and romance. However, consumers, while associating soft drinks with sweets and beer with the beer belly, never regarded wine as high in calories in the first place.

Several producers, including Sebastiani Vineyards, have dropped their light wines, while others have stopped advertising theirs. Going light wines one better, Joseph E. Regis Vineyards wine to less than 0.

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The wine is then pasteurized in the bottle, like beer, to kill any remaining yeast that could re-ferment it. Seagram hopes St. Regis will appeal to health- and performance-conscious consumers who like the taste of dry wine but not its effects. The most successful new wine product in years is the wine cooler. Wine makers hope the cooler will provide a transition for young people who are not fully weaned from sweet soda pop but who have not yet acquired a taste for dry table wine. However, some observers doubt this will happen.

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Even experts who see a permanent niche for coolers predict an imminent shakeout among the odd brands on the market. Leon D. Only red wine improves the taste of hearty main-course foods. No other beverage does that. Perhaps that mistake is responsible for the recent decline in the rate of increase of wine consumption in the United States. As public taste has shifted sharply to white wine, which now outsells red four to one, the industry has been faced with a surfeit of the red- and purple-skinned grapes from which red wine is made.

The solution has been to prevent the skins from coloring the wine by removing them soon after the grapes are crushed and then fermenting the clear-colored juice alone. Blush wines, including White Zinfandel, Pinot Noir Blanc and White Cabernet Sauvignon, are winning increasing acceptance among consumers who like their wine light, fresh, fruity and chilled. Wine makers like blush wines, too, not least because they require far less aging than red wine and, therefore, improve cash flow.

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However, so many wine makers have joined the rush to blush that at least brands are now on the market, with more coming out each month. The flood is crowding retailer shelves and depressing prices. While blush wines represent a clever solution to an oversupply problem in vineyards, some marketing ploys--such as commercials based on competitive taste tests--have proved less successful, and others--such as those involving discount coupons and mail-in refund offers--are controversial.

Marketers say refunds serve a useful purpose when used as an inducement to get consumers to try a new wine. Rebates, coupons, premiums and other freebies used to be illegal in California in connection with alcoholic beverage sales. But a court decision reversed that. The Wine Institute supports proposed legislation to restore the ban, but the bill has gotten nowhere in Sacramento. But the institute has taken similarly mixed stands on federal issues involving broadcast advertising and ingredient labeling. The broadcast advertising issue came to a head last month when a Senate committee held hearings on the emotionally charged question of whether TV and radio ads for wine and beer encourage consumption, especially among youths and heavy drinkers, or simply induce those already consuming wine and beer to choose among competing brands.

A broad coalition of consumer, religious and educational groups contend that the ads encourage consumption and should be banned, or time made available for counter-commercials. And there is never a mention that drinking these wines could lead to a boating accident, or child abuse, or addiction. One reason the anti-ad forces find wine commercials less objectionable than beer commercials is that the Wine Institute has a non-binding Code of Advertising Standards that excludes the use of athletes, rock stars and sexiness in ads.

Advertising is far from the only controversy concerning wine that currently is getting a hearing in Washington. Several issues involving wine ingredients are before the BATF.

And the BATF has proposed reducing the allowable level of the preservative sulfur dioxide because of FDA concern that sulfites can trigger severe allergic reactions in asthmatics and other hyper-sensitive people. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest would like the BATF to go one step further and require wine makers, as well as brewers and distillers and makers of the low-alcohol wine coolers, to disclose ingredients on their labels.


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The wine industry has been fighting the proposal, and so far has been successful in blocking labeling of all ingredients, except the seldom used coloring agent Yellow Dye No. The following is the segmenting process that you should follow for your product or service. Step 1 Identify your overall market and assign a name to it. The overall market for this example will be called the commercial passenger travel market. The exhibit illustrates this overall market.

The commercial passenger travel market can be divided into several smaller segments. Step 3 From carefully examining the market segments given in step 2, we realize that the biggest segment of the commercial passenger travel market is in air travel. Next we need to further break down the commercial passenger air travel market into even smaller groups of homogeneous submarkets with similar market characteristics and buying habits.

We will assign a name to each of those submarkets. Business Leisure International Domestic Commuter First Class Economy Coach Step 4 Now we need to estimate the size of each target segment to determine if it will be big enough to be worth our time to sell to it. From our observation and personal knowledge, we deduced that combining the first-class, domestic, and business air travel submarkets would provide us with the biggest market segment for our fine Corinthian leather luggage.

Step 5 Assign a name to the market that you have identified. First-class, domestic, business air commercial passenger travel Step 6 Now, list the luggage needs and wants of the market segment called first-class, domestic, business air commercial passenger travel. In our example, you would probably find the following types of professionals regularly flying first class on domestic business trips: Successful salespeople Executives Doctors Consultants Successful lawyers We now have identified the targets most likely to buy our rich Corinthian leather baggage.

You can do the same exercise with your market. The importance in segmenting your market cannot be overemphasized. You have identified the largest profitable segment within your market, the needs of that segment, and the customer categories.