Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Can't I Buy Wine At The Supermarket?

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You know I've lived in California for so long there are certain things I've apparently taken for granted. I've thought nothing of perusing the wine section of most supermarkets for a selection. These stores have wine buyers whose selections often times reflect their tastes. In San Francisco I met the buyer for a local upscale organic-leaning grocer at a lounge bar. It caters to people in the nightclub industry so I got an in-depth schooling on great varietals. 

All of those shows with sommeliers/foodies on Fine Living Network and subsequent personal study have paid off as well. Another local grocer sells this one great brand of Blanc de Blancs French champagne (the real stuff) that's less than $12.  In fact, even Trader Joe's touts Charles Shaw wine otherwise known as 2 Buck Chuck - though it's $3 now. I've been able to sample a lot of wine and of course living in Northern California aka Wine Country has certainly developed my palate. You have to swish and spit by the way lest you get drunk before the tour ends!

This doesn't even begin to cover the pricing of wine and the use of undocumented workers on wineries to keep their profits up and allegedly prices low. When the prices of imports are roughly the same as domestic (except when you start getting into specific years, etc) I don't see how that argument holds water. That's another topic for a post that I will cover one day soon. 

New York State produces its own wine too, but unlike in California I can't buy my cheese, wine and toilet paper at the same place. You'd think there'd be this coordinated effort to showcase wines from the Empire State but the only time I've seen any was on the above-mentioned network as the "forgotten" domestic. Now the question of whether I'd want to buy all three together is a matter of personal taste for mass retailers (i.e. Gallo) do abound at supermarkets. 

Is that because of the advertising money spent marketing these wines or is that because the general public has simple (unsophisticated) tastes? There was a time when I thought I hated red wines. There was a time when a $5 bottle was sufficient. I'd dare say a $45 bottle of Tattinger Estate isn't in the weekly budget of the average consumer. I'd also opine those that have wine cellars aren't buying from Sam's Club necessarily either. 

Governor Patterson wants to allow grocers to sell wine to raise revenue for the state. See you New Yorkers don't realize how lucky you are to only have a $15B deficit instead of the $43B one slapped onto California with the looming $8B and counting in next year's budget.  Oh well, I never tire of pointing out the foolishness of those voters that were dazzled by the unqualified movie star who's helped edge the state a little bit closer to that cliff we think won't hold when the Big One comes. Where will all the celebs go when their houses fall into the Pacific? If you've visited Southern California to behold the beauty and peril of building a mansion on stilts on the side of a cliff then you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

So New York has until April 1st (really no joking) to decide on his budget proposal. The Liquor Lobby opposes this, including the Teamsters. Well...everybody's grabbing for a piece of the pie but to me this is a no-brainer. It's ridiculously archaic to not be able to purchase wine at the supermarket. Apparently the wine shops can't sell beer so I say open it up and be done with it. The last thing I'd want to do is be slave to whatever wine shop is in my vicinity or gasp - the liquor store that litters poorer neighborhoods. That's not elitist of me. They tend to grossly inflate prices. It's almost as bad as having to pay $32 for a $20 bottle of vodka in Ireland due to the ridiculous tariffs added to alcohol.  

Here's the weigh-in from Eric Asimov via The Pour blog at the New York Times:
The current system is an antiquated remnant of the post-Prohibition days. We eliminated blue laws prohibiting wine shops from opening on Sundays, and the world seems to have survived.

When Starbucks opened on seemingly every other corner in New York City it didn’t drive all the existing diners and coffee shops out of business. It did force many of them to improve their coffee quality and selection. Eventually, people began to react negatively to the Starbucks ubiquity and many smaller coffee specialty shops began to emerge playing the anti-corporate, connoisseur-quality card.
He has a point. You'll only find me at Charbucks because I needed a Hotspot internet connection or for the Tazo tea. As I can personally attest every wine shop isn't created equal. It's usually hit or miss - mostly miss as I've had some disgusting selections suggested. The one exception came from the one shop I went to in the Tenderloin of all places where I discovered L de Lyeth - thanks to the owner actually listening to my preferences.

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lyndsay said...

Wow, $3 wine? The cheapest I find in Canada is $9 for a bottle. And it's only sold in a specific store. I hope those taxes are well used...

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Welcome Lyndsay: I know it's inexpensive but it definitely TASTES inexpensive as well. It's what you have before you move onto the good stuff. Or if you're well....broke!