Eric Asimov and the dilemma of wine availablity

Eric Asimov and the dilemma of wine availablity
Eric Asimov loves wine, but not the dilemma of wine availability

The Wine Curmudgeon sometimes feels alone and overwhelmed in the middle of the country, battling away at the nefarious forces that confuse and confound wine drinkers. But on one crucial topic, I am not alone — even the great Eric Asimov of the New York Times, perhaps the best wine writer in the country, must contend with the dilemma that is wine availability.

“I fervently wish all drinkers could find what they want,” he wrote in Tuesday’s Times. “I sympathize with those who can ?t. But the simple solution ? choosing only wines that are easy to find ? is worse than the problem.”

Which is the exact same problem the rest of us have. Get two wine writers together (and sometimes it doesn’t take that many), and the topic that comes up over and over is availability. As in, “I really want to write about this wine, but it’s not for sale in my area. Damn you to hell, three-tier system.”

And somehow, as Asimov notes, the problem — despite technology and the Internet — never seems to get any better. I received an email the other day from a reader in a Dallas suburb, who buys wine at the same two chains where I buy wine. But he shops at different locations, which don’t carry the same wines that the stores near me carry. How much more screwed up can the system be?

Asimov describes the availability nightmare well, from why it exists — the 50 laws in 50 states forced on us by three-tier as well as the whims and wishes of retailers — to why most of the obvious solutions for those of us who write about wine aren’t obvious or solutions. And he realizes that consumers, so used to being able to buy anything else anywhere and at any time, don’t understand why wine is different — and maybe don’t want to understand.

So know this, everyone who has ever been overwhelmed in their search for a specific wine: If someone in Manhattan, the center of the universe, can’t find a wine that Asimov writes about in the Times, which caters to the center of the universe, then what hope is there for the rest of us? That’s the dilemma of wine availability.

More about the dilemma of wine availability:
? Wine availability: Whose fault is it anyway?
? Wine availability: How to find what you ?re looking for when it ?s not on the shelf
? Wine availability, and why it matters to you

10 thoughts on “Eric Asimov and the dilemma of wine availablity

  • By Liz Bennet -

    I don’t expect Eric to solve the availability problem, but I do wish he occasionally did a survey of $20 German Riesling or $30 California Zinfandel or cheap Chardonnay or whatever. The still-missed John and Dottie from the WSJ used to do this with some regularity, and they were enormously helpful in helping people gain confidence to experience wine in a different way. In this specific kind of article, they were always careful to note that no one should expect to find any of these specific wines, but here’s what you can reasonably expect in a bottle you grab off the shelf. And sometimes they told you not to bother because the range of quality was too much of a crapshoot.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      We can’t expect Asimov to do cheap chardonnay — that’s what I’m here for

      And, for what it’s worth, availability is so screwed up that even if he did the wines you mention, someone wouldn’t be able to find them.

  • By Chris -

    Some great points and quotes here. Thank you for keep the issue alive, the more pressure the public gives to this and maybe it will end. Is it just coincidence that Asimov’s article came out the same time period as the “at rest” debate in NY that is being pushed by those purveyors of the biggest brands available?

    Love this:
    “But the simple solution ??? choosing only wines that are easy to find ??? is worse than the problem.???

    And this:
    Damn you to hell, three-tier system.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      “At rest” makes my head hurt. The link explains it for anyone else who wants a headache, but only in wine would a state legislature debate a bill about where a company can set up a warehouse.

  • By gdfo -

    Couple of thoughts on this.

    Why does anyone think that all wines should be available everywhere?

    Each State has its own regulatory forms concerning alcoholic beverages. Do States have any rights? Should we move to another state if we do not like the regulations in a particular state?

    There are alot of things that I cannot get where I live. I cannot always get fresh strawberries. Should I be allowed to buy them from a farm from out of state and bypass the retailers? Can I buy cars that way? What other goods and services can I buy by going to the source rather than a retail outlet?

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      The point that wine should be available more easily is that almost everything else in the post-modern shopping world is — tennis shoes, books, laundry detergent, and so on. If I want to buy a computer, I can go to a traditional retailer like Best Buy, an online retailer like New Egg or Amazon, or the manufacturer, like Dell or HP. The question we ask: Why is three-tier, a product of Prohibition that restricts how and where we can buy wine, still with us 80 years after Prohibition?

  • By gdfo -

    OK. Then the topic is really the Three Tiered System and not availability.

    I used to work for a wholesale company. We sold a wine that retailed for $9.99 that was the price the Winery wanted targeted and that is what it ended up on the shelf for. If you go to the winery or try to buy it online the price was much higher. This is a Washington State wine and not that well known. We worked hard to get it out there.
    Nowadays it is hard for me to find it on any shelf.

    It is not easy for some retailers to carry large varieties of wines. At some point they have to cull the wines that do not sell as well as others. On top of that, some wineries promise a good supply of their product and then when you get the distribution they want they run out.
    There are Wholesalers with Integrity and there are Wineries with Integrity and then there are those in both sectors that
    are not so keen on Integrity. It is not just a problem that occurs because of a Three Tiered System.
    At what point does each State have the authority to control how it sell wine?

    Yes it is a long time from Prohibition and we still drive gasoline powered cars too.

    So what is the Ideal distribution system?

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      Best wine distribution system? Just like ketchup and canned soup?

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  • By Jeff -

    The ideal distribution system is a free distribution system for all producers and customers. NOT, 50 different systems that only service state supported monopolies on warehousing and delivery (aka distributors).

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