I’m a big fan of wine. But in particular, I like and I support Ontario wines. And last night I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Stratus Vineyards annual harvest party. It happens every year and, as the name suggests, it kind of marks the end of the growing season for the vineyard. I say kind of because not all varietals have been harvested by this time.
At one point during the evening, I was speaking with the winemaker, J-L (Jean-Laurent) Groux, who is a native of the Loire Valley in France and first learned how to make wine in Burgundy and Bordeaux. And I asked him: why Niagara? Why did you bring your talent to Niagara? (When he came, Niagara would have had a great reputation for crappy wines.)
He first responded by saying that he had been traveling around the world to different wine regions, and Niagara just so happened to be where he was when he ran out of money. But he went on to say that he saw Niagara as a place of opportunity. It was a region on the rise and he knew that he would have the creative freedom to experiment and do whatever he wanted.
And that just wasn’t the case in France where tradition dictated. Good for Niagara.
But as he was telling me all of this, I couldn’t help but think that it’s the classic business story of incumbents and disruptors. I’m not saying that French winemaking will get disrupted. I’m just saying that in a world of established wineries, corporations and other groups, it would seem impossible for them to be threatened in any way by upstarts. They, the incumbents, have more money, more people, and more resources all around.
But what they sometimes lose along the way, is the will to try new things.