As you may have noticed, I haven’t written a post in about a year. It’s not a lack of interest for the topic or in hearing myself speak, as I have a lot of love for both. Life has gotten busy and, during that, I moved to Vermont. Vermont? Yes, I’m still startled by it as well.

Thank you for all of your support and interest over the last few years. I hope I helped educate or at least brought you a laugh once in awhile. I will be blogging about my new adventures in Vermont. More to come…

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The big new controversy, or is the same old controversy, of the year is the rumors that the PLCB’s will be ended when Governor-Elect Tom Corbett takes office.  As more and more people get frustrated with the laws and restrictions associated, privatization of liquor stores seems like an increasingly popular option to give Corbett a quick “win” to start his term.  With such a contentious issue, there are many sides to consider, which may be why this issue has failed three times in the rather immediate past.

Taxes: To help with a $5 billion PA defiicit, selling 620 stores can easily generate $2 billion, a move much needed when Corbett has promised to neither raise taxes on the citizens nor tax Marcellus Shale businesses.  While a good short term decision, it is important to decide how many taxes are too many to keep the current revenue the PLCB brings in if stores are privatized.

Drunk Driving/Underage Drinking: The PLCB currently has its own policing system to deal with these issues and can point to the low underage drinking numbers of Pennsylvania as evidence.  Removing this force may or may not give local police more responsibility and may or may not lead to increases in both problems, but it will certainly enrage such groups as MADD which could be formidable opponents to Corbett’s gubernatorial service.

Jobs: Privatization will result in a rather immediate loss of approximately 5,000 jobs for those working in PLCB stores, most of whom are part of the state-wide union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.  Some discussion has ensued regarding the requirement of hiring the same people for positions in new stores.  This requirement seems fraught with problems, especially when considering smaller businesses.

No More Kiosks: Really, that’s my own issue, but I’ll be glad if they’re gone since they cost the state a bundle and are already down for maintenance like not giving customers their wine. Genius.

In the current plan, the PLCB would still exist, the number of stores sold is up for discussion, additional stores would likely result, and it is likely that jobs would increase.

After thinking about how horribly I failed my friend, I quickly learned about the new wine trends and just as quickly did not report them. But, a month later, I’m all over it.

The good news? Not only have people continued to buy wine throughout this recession, but recently they’ve started paying more for their bottles. In fact, “Compared with a year earlier, volume sales for the $15-per-bottle and higher category rose 10% to 9.1 million cases shipped through the 52 weeks ended July 4. Dollar sales rose more than 2% to $1.52 billion” which really brings the categories up close to what they were pre-recession.

Flavor trends are gearing toward fruity and lower alcohol according to this article from New Zealand boldly proclaiming that NZ tastes are similar to those of the rest of the world. What was NOT obvious was that New Zealand’s wine industry is working to become completely sustainable by 2012, inline with the organic/natural trends in both food and wine. Rosés and little known varietals are also slowly becoming the rage as consumers become more playful with their wine. Its like New Zealand knows me personally.

Next up? Spirits fun.

So, I’m talking to a friend who has an interview with a major wine company tomorrow and she is picking my brain on wine trends. Sadly at 11:30 at night on a perfectly wine friendly Wednesday, I must admit I’m not in the wine groove. I am, however, thinking a great deal about beer. Not only did I get to go to the Big Pour here in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago (I do love me a good beer fest), but this David and Goliath story about microbrews taking market share from big papas Budwiser and Miller is everywhere. A particularly well written and pithy article was written by Damien Hoffman this week.

Hoffman writes about Budwiser’s loss of loyalty over the last 7 years, going from 16th to 223rd when ranked by Brand Loyalty Leaders List (who?) from 2003 to 2010. Apparently Budweiser’s reaction is to give away free beer. Interesting, but probably not useful. Everyone has had a Bud at one point or another, either tailgating, at some drunken college party or when there was really no other choice. No one will be surprised by its taste and switch from a microbrew.

I feel that Hoffman’s best point is that regarding Budweiser’s choice to continue fighting this downward spiral rather than doing what technology companies have done for years: buy out your competitor. “There’s no need to fight a trend when you are one of the richest companies in the world … just buy the trend.” I heartily agree.

I may not be up for helping on wine tonight, but beer? I am all over reporting someone else’s ideas about beer.

I generally try to remain open minded in this blog. Generally. I understand that taxes are important to operating a government and that the PLCB isn’t just one giant waste of time. They are very supportive of local wine, beer and liquor companies, for example.

New fee increases in liquor handling and storage by the PLCB, however, tend to rate high on my “completely ridiculous” scale. Fees will increase by $0.50 to $2 per bottle in January with increases continuing annually. They pretend that this is not just a new tax. Instead, they state: “Any business has to look at their costs on a yearly basis. We have not done that for 17 years and we have decided that we have to do that.”

Since when is a monopoly run by the state a business? If PA citizens had other choices and other companies to go through, then the PLCB could argue about being a business. A failing one. Shareholder seem to have no say in whether or not the PLCB’s strategies are the correct ones and the PLCB is therefore not held accountable to its customers.

With already sky high taxes on wine and liquor, restaurants, bars and the everyday consumer will soon have an additional $1-$3 per bottle to look forward to paying.

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