Book Review: American Wine Economics; by James Thornton

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The book I present to you today, American Wine Economics by James Thornton, takes a hard turn from the books that we have been reviewing on this blog, and dives deep down into the abyss that is otherwise known as economics.  I’m not talking an easy-to-read novella about wine prices or consumer willingness toAmerican-Wine-Economics-The-Academic-Wino payà I’m talking hard core economics of the wine industry in the United States (as of 2013).  If you’re looking for a fascinating, easy, page-turning read about wine, this is not the book for you.  If you love numbers and economic theory, and have a strong fascination with the wine industry in the United States, then this IS the book for you.

To purchase American Wine Economics by James Thornton, click here to find it for sale on

My first gut reaction after (well, and during) reading this book was, “holy lord, this is dry”.  While it is true the style is incredibly dry, it is chock full of information about wine economics, in particular the economics of wine in the United States.  After coming off of reading more light-hearted books and books with more descriptive and poetic-like prose, it was hard for me to make that shift and really get into a dry info-filled book like American Wine Economics.

This book has basically everything known about wine economics in the United States jam-packed into 307 pages.  It would be a great text to use in wine economics course, as there is information in it covering just about every single aspect of wine economics, from learning about the differences between bulk wine and private-label wine, to government regulations, the existence and functions of the wine firm, to wine quality versus price, and finally to the globalization of wine.  It’s not meant to be a light read.  You pick this book up to really learn and thoroughly understand the economics of wine and how it all comes together to produce the industry as we know it today in the United States.

Photo by Flickr user markwainwright

Photo by Flickr user markwainwright

Before the heavy economics portion of the book (which is the majority of it, really), Thornton does spend a bit of time talking about grape growing and winemaking in general, to give the reader a primer on which to build the economic theories and concepts.  The way that this section is written may not be terribly exciting for the wine expert, however, if you’re still learning the ins and out of grape growing or winemaking, this section of American Wine Economics would be helpful to you.

The thing that bothered me most about this book was the way in which it was written.  The text is extremely dry (for my tastes, anyway), and I found many pages just “walls of text”, with sometimes no more than one paragraph break on a page.  I realize there is a lot of information regarding wine economics; however, I also believe that there are ways to talk about this type of content then dry walls of text.

I won’t hold this against the author of American Wine Economics too much, however, as he clearly has a solid grasp of wine economics in the United States and with his credentials (professor of economics, writer and member of several peer-reviewed economics journals, etc), he is certainly an authority on the topic and thus one can learn an immense amount from him regarding American wine economics.

As I mentioned before, if you’re looking for an easy read, particularly something to read a few pages of before going to bed, you might wish to pass on this book.  However, if you enjoy economics theory and

Photo By Wdflake at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Wdflake at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

you’re either in, trying to get in, or are just in general interested in the wine industry, you may want to give this book a read.  It would be a great book to have on your shelf as a reference book in your home library, but probably one that you won’t read from start to finish with a glass of wine while you’re sitting on the beach taking in some sun.  I’m glad to have a copy in my repertoire, though I can tell you next time I read it, it’ll most likely be to use as a reference for when I need it (I actually thought of several posts I’ve written that I could have used this book as a reference for!).

To purchase American Wine Economics by James Thornton, click here to find it for sale on

Happy reading!