This edition of Ask the WC: Wine availability, and why can’t I buy what you’re writing about?
Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. This time, I answer the dozens of recent comments and emails from readers about wine availability, which has apparently been driving everyone crazy. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.
Hello, Wine Curmudgeon:
I love your blog, and you make me laugh. But I can’t always find the wine you recommend. Is that me? Or am I missing something?
Can’t find the wine
It’s not you. It’s not even me, despite what some readers think. It’s the way wine is sold in the U.S. Every wine on a store shelf has to have a distributor. The retailer, no matter how large – even as big as Costco – can’t buy wine directly from the producer. That’s the law (and our old pal), the three-tier system. Some wines, for whatever reason, won’t have a distributor in all 50 states. I try to review wines that should be available in a quality independent retailer in a mid-sized city. My only other choice is to do Big Wine products, which are available in most places, but what’s the point of that?
I’m getting annoyed going to my local supermarket and not being able to find the wines you write about. It happens all the time. Why don’t you write about wines I can buy there?
Tired of the hassle
It’s not my fault. Honest. It’s the three-tier system, because you can’t buy wine like you can buy ketchup and laundry detergent. Grocers, for a variety of reasons, usually carry different wines than the ones I review. It doesn’t mean you can’t find the wines I recommend in supermarkets. It’s just less likely, and why I suggest looking for a quality independent retailer.
I really like a nice glass of rose. I lived in the New York City area for years, but have just moved back to home, a smallish city in the Midwest. Not as easy to find good wine, and especially the rose that I like. I tried Wine.com and Wine-searcher — no luck. Can you help?
I want my rose
Welcome to the joys of availability. Go to a good independent retailer and ask them to check if the wine has a distributor in your city. That’s not difficult, but not every retailer will do it. If the wine is available, the retailer can order it from the distributor even if they don’t ordinarily carry it. Again, not difficult, but not every retailer will do this. Hence, my recommendation of a quality independent retailer. Finally, you may have to accept that the wine doesn’t have a distributor in a smaller market. Or, even if it does, the distributor may not carry it. That’s another example of why three-tier is so infuriating.
More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
• Ask the WC 13: California chardonnay, grip, affordable wine
• Ask the WC 12: $5 wine, varietal character, negative reviews
• Ask the WC 11: Arsenic lawsuit, marijuana, wine competitions