Winery PR maven Jo Diaz has a great post today on the economics of a $50 bottle of wine. She claims that the 3-tier system takes $25.50 (51%) of that fifty bucks. While you may quibble about whether it's 51% or 47%, clearly there's a chunk of money that the winery doesn't get from that U.S. Grant.
Her analysis makes it abundantly clear why wineries love their tasting rooms (an additional 51% of margin!).
It shows why good direct wine marketing "agents" (to steal Paul Mabray's term) are worth 10 - 25% (25 is less than 51).
It shows why Dave Coffaro makes good money selling $20 wine futures (avoiding the 3 tiers altogether).
What it doesn't make clear is why more wineries aren't pursuing direct sales via their Web sites.
(As long as you're here, please take/promote my 2010 Wine Sales Survey. Thanks!)