The Wal-Martization of wine?

I don’t know a whole lot about wine, but I do drink a whole lot of it. Now one of the world’s biggest wine producers is looking to get a whole lot bigger. It’s already a bit startling to head down to the wine store and see the percentage of wines that carry some form of “Rothschild” on the label. Now apparently we’ll be seeing even more of the same.

“We are changing the way business has traditionally been done in the luxury segment,” Richard Sands, the chairman and chief executive of Constellation Brands, said in a statement, “from primarily an individual company basis to a collective partnership of some of the most respected members in the industry.”

There are two different Rothschilds, but the one that has been the most expansive recently is the one that’s considering buying the very large Chalone conglomerate. I have to say, I like these wines: both from Chalone and from Barons de Rothschild. But half the fun of visiting the wine store is finding a new unique label. Are we headed toward a point when all the best wines are owned by a single conglomerate? If selecting a good wine becomes as simple as looking for “Barons de Rothschild” on the label, I might as well just switch to beer.

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