A customer studies the wine list sitting at a restaurant table. A decision is made, and a little while later he samples the glass offered to him. For a moment, his gaze becomes inscrutable, lost in an intimate reflection passing through the senses. Then we observe a gesture of assent to indicate approval of the contents of the glass. This typical scenario takes place on a daily basis. However, the succession of events for this act to take place is more complex than we may imagine. There are five separate stages that need to be realised for this to happen. From the vineyard to the winery, with its subsequent sale to a distributor who, in turn, resells it to a restaurant that, finally, offers and serves it to a diner.
This chapter introduces part of this chain: the journey from the vineyard to the distributor. Among other issues, we discuss the organisation of the vineyard, the role of wine grapes in the agricultural market and in agricultural policy. We also examine the fragmentation of wine production in a market incorporating a great many wineries and consider the roles of the two main distribution channels: the on-trade hospitality channel and the retail/shop channel known as off-trade.