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Tag Archives: wine availability

James Tidwell on the dilemma of wine availability

James Tidwell of the Four Seasons in suburban Dallas is one of the top sommeliers in the country, the co-founder of the TexSom sommelier wine education group, and a wine blogger. As such, his view of of the wine world is a little different from the Wine Curmudgeon's — call it more top down than bottom up. James buys wines from distributors to sell in his restaurant, which means he has more wines to choose from and which is not quite the same thing as desperately searching a retailer to find something interesting for dinner.

Or, as James told me the other day, "People used to tell me they couldn't find good wine to drink, and I thought they were crazy."

But not any more. James is on The Dallas Morning News Wine Panel, which recommends affordable wines that are generally available. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) And he has discovered that finding affordable wines that are generally available is not easy. (Sounds familiar, too, doesn't it?) The panel may taste a wine it likes, but it can't use the wine it isn't sold in two retailers in the Dallas area.

"Every retailer seems to have the same 300 wines," he says. "No wonder consumers end up drinking the same grocery store-style wines over and over."

Which is the point of this story. If one of the most knowledgeable wine people in the country is frustrated by the conundrum that is wine availability, then don't feel badly if you're frustrated by it, too.

A few more words about wine availability

A regular visitor to the blog sent me an email this week, the gist of which was “I have trouble finding the wines you write about.”

Sigh.

As previously noted, the bane of the Wine Curmudgeon’s existence is availability. In fact, it’s the bane of almost every wine writer’s existence, and I’ve even had winery officials tell me that it drives them crazy, too.

It’s always difficult, unless you’re writing for readers in one small part of one city, to negotiate the availability maze. Given my audience these days, which takes in people from around the world, it’s that much more difficult. All anyone can do, and what I try to do, is to write about wines that are “generally available,” and to note when wines have limited availability. Unfortunately, the term “generally available” seems to mean less and less these days. (Why that is — the recession, consolidation among producers, the vagaries of the three-tier system — is a subject for another day.)

I always ask, when I like a wine, if it has general U.S. distribution. If it doesn’t, I usually don’t write about it. In this sense, I am at the mercy of the winery, importer or distributor. That’s why I always link to the winery, importer, or distributor Web sites in the review. If you can’t find it locally, send the company in the link an email and ask them if there is a local distributor. If there is, you should be able to get a retailer in your area to order it for you.

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