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Eric Asimov and the dilemma of wine availablity

Eric Asimov 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

Winebits 254: Wine prices, French wine, Asimov

Aussie harvest: I suppose I’ll have to stop trying to teach journalism to the wine business one of these days, but one more lesson: The wine business in Australia is still in the tank (no pun intended), but a good harvest has increased the supply of grapes. The Aussies have cut the number of acres of vines by six percent, but production still increased three percent in the last harvest. And, given that the wine business is worldwide, more grapes in Australia helps offset shortages elsewhere. Without taking demand into account.

Changing habits: Simon Kuper in the Financial Times looks at the changing role of wine in French culture, in which they are drinking less but apparently enjoying it more. And, lest anyone forget the paramount role the French play in wine, he writes: “In drink as in other domains, France still shapes global tastes. Around the world, wine has become the upmarket drinking option – the opposite of earthy, proletarian or peasant beer. Soon middle-aged male ‘wine bores’ will be as much a Chinese affliction as a French one.”

• “How to love wine:” Eric Asimov, one of the few members of the Winestream Media who understands what’s going on, has a new book. In it, he demonstrates that insight: “Uncertainty [in wine] means that you can say, ‘I don’t have to tell you precisely what you should taste in this wine or how many points it should score. There is something more ambiguous about this wine and I can’t really grasp it and I am okay with that.’ “ Would that more people who profess to be wine experts understood that concept.

Winebits 241: Wine reviews, wine prices, wine blogging

Jonathan Swift? Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist, citing the precedent set by Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift 283 years ago, suggests “Instead of asking critics to score the wines on a quality scale, let’s ask them how much they are worth! How much should someone be willing to pay for this wine?” Which the Wine Curmudgeon wholeheartedly agrees with, and has been part of the blog since its inception. Imagine the fun: Suggested retail price, $15. What it’s worth price: $5. That would get everyone’s attention, no? Besides, who wouldn’t want to be in the company of Swift, who wrote “Gulliver’s Travel’s” and fought the good fight against the 18th-century British bosses and elite?

What should wine cost? Eric Asimov at the New York Times says $20, for at that price it’s possible to find something where “the odds swing decidedly in your favor. With a little experience, you can find dozens of joyous bottles, plucked carefully from the ranks of the routine.” He lists 20, mostly very nice bottles. though availability outside of Manhattan may be a problem. What intrigued me the most, though, was Asimov’s discussion of price, which is something he doesn’t do much. He acknowledges that $20 may be a lot of money for some of us, and that there are perfectly acceptable bottles of $10 wine for sale. When Eric Asimov says things like that, the wine world has most definitely changed.

Oops: The Wine Blogging Awards, which recently announced its finalists, made a mistake in the Best New Blog category, where one of the finalists wasn’t supposed to be one of the finalists. Something about a math error. It’s pretty much a mess, and involves separate voting in that category. I suppose I could write something snarky here, like a wine blogger should, but I like to think I’m better than that. Besides, the awards have enough problems of their own.

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