Despite the industry-promoted image of mom-and-pop wineries in California, nearly all of the leading wine producers in the state are multinational corporations with offices worldwide. Morever, wine is just merely one aspect of these global operations, having become integrated into massive product portfolios along with spirits and beer brands. Hiding behind a narrative of local, family-owned wineries, the global corporations that own California wine are steadily working to deregulate alcohol in every state through: 1) diminishing the three-tier alcohol system in the U.S.; 2) consolidating distribution to a single entity per state; 3) undue influence on the political process that includes undermining efforts to increase alcohol taxes and fees at the state and federal levels.
For example, as Governor Schwarzenegger’s nickel-a-drink increase on alcohol excise taxes in California was removed from the final 2009-2010 budget, wine corporations and trade organizations funded 72 percent of alcohol-related contributions to “Budget Reform Now,” the California PAC supporting the final budget proposal and related propositions.
This report details how California wine is an illusion because:
- Six of the seven producers that own 82 percent of U.S. wine are global corporations.
- Six of the ten top wine producers also own spirits and beer brands.
- The Wine Institute, despite its tag line of the “Voice of California Wine,” is controlled by executives from Diageo, Constellation Brands, Foster’s, and Brown-Forman, multinational conglomerates all based outside of California and with product portfolios that also include major spirits and beer brands.
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