Dec. 16, 2020



A year that felt like a century...tariffs, the Covid-19 pandemic, massive wildfires, social upheavals for both gender and race...2020 is one for the record books. Carlton McCoy, CEO of Heitz Cellars, and Jane Anson, writer for Decanter Magazine and autho

A year that felt like a century...tariffs, the Covid-19 pandemic, massive wildfires, social upheavals for both gender and race...2020 is one for the record books.  Carlton McCoy, CEO of Heitz Cellars, and Jane Anson, writer for Decanter Magazine and author of Inside Bordeaux, join Robert and special guest host Charlie Fu (Wine Berserkers moderator) to recap all the twists and turns of 2020. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Wine tariffs
    • Anson - had an immediate impact when they went into place in Nov 2019 on the French wine industry, pre-Covid (~April 2020), French wine was down 30% with Bordeaux down ~12%, the French had to battle with the US, China, and Brexit -> may lead to a bumpy start to 2021
    • McCoy - mostly entry-level SKUs hit in Europe, made it challenging to offer the same wines by the glass in the US; impacted in the late spring / early summer as importers brought in containers ahead of the tariffs
  • Covid-19
    • McCoy
      • Was able to shift sales more seamlessly from on-premise (restaurants) to off-premise (retailers) because the Heitz group started Domaine Estate, a domestic and international negociant
      • Focused on how to support restaurants and bought a lot of high-end wine at retail from restaurants
      • Heitz invested in outdoor furniture and golf carts to host guests outside in the vineyard
      • Increased digital marketing (social, email) and phone campaigns (which worked very well) -> increased direct sales 3x over 2019
      • Heitz was able to double down on tasting room construction during Covid
    • Anson
      • Has seen a direct marketing ramp, wineries want a more personal relationship with people
      • Bordeaux chateaux - a little suspicious at first, now getting on board
      • Union de Grand Cru (“UGC”) wanted En Premier to be the normal way but canceled one week before and instead sent samples of wine all over the world
      • 67 Pall Mall, a private wine club in London - started Zoom tastings with sample bottles very quickly, after 6-7 months of events is evolving to more of a YouTube-like channel with higher production quality
      • European restaurant scene
        • France - better at supporting restaurants, also had clearer communication of the lockdown rules
        • UK - rules changed every week, very difficult to follow, some reports say ~30,000 restaurants closing
        • In France - a case of one restaurant winning an insurance claim for the closures, which is a big case to watch for precedent-setting for the industry; currently being challenged as most policies exclude major catastrophes
    • McCoy - in the US, zero government response from restaurant associations seeking relief, >100,000 restaurants closed, many likely permanently
    • Anson - launching Inside Bordeaux (Berry Bros, $80) during Covid has been challenging - issues with printing to furloughs at the publisher has made it a challenge
  • Social Justice / Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) / Female Rights Movements
    • McCoy - 2020 was a continuation of movements that have been happening for >100 years, not unique to black people, but they are just the most outspoken; the support is more diverse now than it ever has been before
    • Anson - Europe and the rest of the world embraced the movement, realizing that this impacts everybody and not just the US; heavily focused on identifying opportunities for people to get into the wine industry
    • Fu - raised $60,000 for the NAACP in 2 days on Instagram and Facebook through a wine auction, was surprised how political it was perceived
    • McCoy - the Court of Master Sommelier sexual misconduct scandal - “no one was surprised,” the restaurant culture is promiscuous in general -> the CMS is being forced to restructure like an actual company
    • Anson - gender issues still a major issue in Europe with control and power still entrenched in a few white males, the En Magnum in France published a sexist cartoon, and when female journalists spoke up, they were hushed
  • Wildfires
    • McCoy - fires have always happened in the West (of the US)
      • Heitz left 80% of the fruit on the vine in 2020
      • Believes that no one understands the science of smoke taint
      • Believes that reports that the whole vintage was lost in Napa were due to irresponsible journalism
      • Multiple samples of the same wine from labs showed different results for smoke taint - believes lab results are inaccurate
    • Anson - Australia also hard hit by wildfires, especially the Yarra Valley and Kangaroo Island
  • Best Wine Book read this year
  • Best Wines Tasted in 2020
    • Fu - 2017 Liger Belair La Romanee, 1974 Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 1991 Chave Cuvée Cathelin Hermitage
    • Anson - 1998 & 1999 tasting of Petrus, Lefleur, and Le Pin
    • McCoy - 2002 Rene Engel Clos Vougeot, 2018 Jaimee Motley Peter Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Vernick - 1964 Gaja Barbaresco, 1991 & 1994 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet
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