Saturday, July 2, 2016

Good Wine Is Where You Find It

That's what my good friend would tell me regularly.  My friend was insightfully eclectic with his wine selections and seemed to strike gold more often than not, so his tag line about locating good wine makes sense in that light.

I remember calling a wine consultant at one of Atlanta's largest distributorships many years ago when I was searching for an obscure allocated wine.  He didn't know me or the reason for my call but said the item was depleted from their warehouse but I may find some at outlying Big Star grocery stores.  Being the first Atlanta grocery chain with a fine wine department, Big Star was ahead of its time back in the eighties.  There was a real drop-off in sales, however, once you left the Atlanta perimeter.  Those rural stores couldn't turn inventory that quickly so his suggestion made sense.  What the gentleman didn't know at the time was that I was looking for the wine for a customer in my position as a wine sales person at one of those outlying Big Stars!

Good wine is where you find it.

I remember a cross country truck driver who patronized my store occasionally and he told me he would stop in small retail stores across the country in hopes of finding a deal on fine wine.  He had "Champagne" tastes in red wine.  He said he regularly would find bottles that were either priced wrong or were marked down because they didn't sell at mom and pop stores.  He was a good shopper who took advantage of others' misfortune.  Actually, I think his wine hobby was more like an obsession, come to think of it.

Close-out lists from distributors are a real crap shoot.  I think one of the unsung heroes for all of us is the guy at the distributorship who decides to close something out.  If that guy is on top of his game and dumps a wine at a fraction of the regular price with the wine still holding its own in quality, everyone benefits.  But if that guy waits too long and the wine is too much in decline, well, it ain't pretty.  I guess bad wine is where you find it too!

Restaurant wine lists in general are not where one is likely to find good wine.  Most restaurants get their mass market California varietals handed to them on a platter from the large Atlanta liquor distributors.  As a result, the real artisan wine producers, who actually make food-friendly wines, can't get their foot in the door in most restaurants.  The idea that wines are supposed to complement meals doesn't seem to occur to most restaurateurs.

Unfortunately that is the way things are in general in the wine business circa 2016.  Distribution channels are clogged with "industrial" wines that all taste the same making it nearly impossible for artisans to get their product out to the marketplace.  So you ought to shop at mom and pop stores like this one that offer real wine and if our artisan efforts don't sell they'll get marked down and you can clean up like the truck driver!  Actually since chains don't buy closeouts, shop the mom and pops for those too!

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