Winebits 451: A three-tier system roundup

three-tierThis week’s wine news is all about the three-tier system – a well-written story about how it works, plus updates on marijuana and Utah.

• “It’s impossible to taste 645 wines:” Jeremy Baker of Food52, a self-described “amateur wine lover,” writes about his adventure in the three-tier system, and he spends a lot of time down the rabbit hole. Baker interviews a wine shop owner, who explains what it’s like to taste hundreds of wines a week to decide what to carry, and gets to visit a trade tasting where 645 wines are being shown. “The tasting list is in actuality a 166-page book,” he writes, and his amazement goes on from there. That Baker can actually begin to imagine the difficulties that the system imposes on retailers is the strength of the story. My only regret is that he doesn’t assess the system and decide if it’s time is past. Otherwise, highly recommended reading.

Don’t trust the wholesalers: Tom Wark, whose crusade against the three-tier system makes my opinions seem like a child’s musings, has a warning for the marijuana business: “Whatever you do, don’t allow America’s alcohol wholesalers anywhere near your growing and soon-to-be-legal industry.” Wark’s post explains why he doesn’t want the legal weed business to be dominated by the distributor-based system that controls the wine supply chain. My favorite part? Where he quotes a distributor trade group, which says legal marijuana needs three-tier to prevent illegal sales. Which, of course, sounds like an argument only Dave would understand.

Only in Utah: Regular visitors know how much the WC appreciates Utah’s Kafka-esque interpretation of three-tier, and this is yet another example. Under a new tasting law, liquor producers must have a “distinct area for consumption” so that tastings are “outside the view of minors” who may be at the winery. In other words, wineries can only do tastings in a back room out of sight of any children who may be at the winery. Which presupposes that kids are flocking to wineries and craft beer and spirits producers to watch adults sample the product. Could be worse, though: What happens when the Utah legislature finds out kids might be watching their parents drink at home?