While the 3 Tier system has been under attack quite a bit as of late, I've been considering how I feel about both sides of the issue. Then there's the whole State vs. Fed argument that I'm not even going to touch. The whole sales tax thing is a sham, so don't get me started on that. Without getting too deep into politics and fair trade laws, I thought I'd bring up some points that keep getting missed.
Wholesalers are, by in large, acting like HUGE MORONS. Direct shipping won't affect you nearly as much as, say the public backlash against the three tier system, which could theoretically start a landslide of sentiment to dismantle the whole system. Tread very lightly wholesalers, the wine buying public views you as middle men that take a greedy slice no matter what. On the other hand, they sort of have a point, sometimes.
Wholesalers, are actually still vital, no matter what happens with direct shipping. Preplanned wine purchases are great for consumers, but 98% (no data to back this up, don't bother checking) of wine consumers buy in a store for near term consumption. They also need the expertise of a knowledgeable wine staff, something you can't get from the winery, mainly because it's not unbiased. Oh, and what about sampling? If we allow retailers and restaurants to buy direct, how will they get to know the wines? Will they buy the minimum shipment just to sample new items? Who will organize trade tastings? Don't forget, any wine professional worth their salt has tasted thousands of wines, in the last few years alone. How does anyone expect this to continue if the 3 tier system is attacked? If consumers think they are going to get better pricing from the wineries, think again. Most will hold the retail price,and keep the full markup, just like they (justifiably) do in the tasting room.
The answer is, no one knows. Change is always unpredictable, and often scary. Laws of protection often fail, and in this case, who are they protecting? They are probably just protecting a small group that are too narrow minded and antiquated to see themselves adapting. All I know for sure is, wine consumption is on the rise. Wholesalers should quit worrying about rigging the system for their own self interest, and do a better job of promoting and educating. Don't you think Congress has better things to do than to protect the security of the big 6 distributors?
Vinography Images: Independence Vineyard
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