No, I don’t have that….

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm

It happens all the time when one works in wine retail; a customer comes in looking for something I’ve never heard of. Now, of course, I will do anything in my power to order a wine that I don’t normally carry for a customer, however there are factors beyond my control, and those are the factors I will endeavor to illuminate here. Each state in the US has it’s own laws regarding the sale of alcohol. These vary in content from state to state, but most are some form of a 3-tier system, meaning it involves wholesalers, who bring the wine into the state, retailers and restaurants who buy from the wholesalers, and the end consumer who of course drinks the wine. Of course there is more complexity than that, but that’s the basic model. So, if a wine is not carried by a wholesaler in the state in which you live, chances are there is no way for your local retailer to legally purchase it. The exception here being wineries that are also located within that state, as most states allow winery-direct sales to restaurants and retail. 

Now, this next part may sound a little bitchy, but it’s a frustrating thing that I commonly encounter, and I need to get this off my chest. Quite often, when somebody asks me for something, and I tell them I can’t get it and it’s not available in the state, their next response is “Well you should check it out” or “You should consider carrying them, they’re good.” And I’m not mad at the customer, I understand they’re just trying to be helpful by recommending a wine they enjoyed, I’m just frustrated with the interaction because the phrase “It’s not available in this state” just doesn’t seem to sink in for so many people.

Now, if you’re a civilian reading this, and I hope you are, and I hope I haven’t offended you yet, I hope this next bit will help create some context. Quite often the wines I can’t get for people are wines from states that aren’t that well-known for wine. Now, we can discuss all day the relative quality of wines from New York or Georgia, but that’s not the issue at hand. The issue is shipping logistics. Say I go myself to Georgia and find a wine that I think is amazing, and I want to carry it in my store. In order to do that, I have to have a wholesaler who’s willing to bring it in for me. In order for them to do that, they’ve got to find a trucking company that goes to wherever the wine is stored in Georgia and pick it up for me. In order for the cost of that trucking company’s work to be worthwhile, chances are I’ll have to order at least a pallet (56 cases) of whatever wine it is. And no matter how amazing I think that wine is, the simple fact of the market is that trying to sell 56 cases of wine from Georgia in any state other than Georgia is, to say the least, a herculean task. Oregon, Washington, and California are currently the only states whose wines are generally available everywhere else in the country. There are a few other states including New York whose wines are available in many states, but I certainly don’t expect to see them everywhere. 

And there is one other thing to bear in mind: your home state may produce some pretty good wines, but remember that every state in the union produces wine. So if you’re looking for wine from anywhere but one of the most well-known wine producing states, chances are you’ll only find them in the state in which they’re produced.

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