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