1997 Whatever….

"most Americans were satisfied with the system as it is except for a
small, very vocal segment who say they can’t get their bottle of 1997

Count me in as part of that small, vocal segment of folks who really do love the "1997 Whatever". What a great wine that was, huh! I’d loved it’s fruity component of So What. And who can forget that wine’s firm and crisp Too Bad. And the wine was legendary for it’s long, smoky Nevermind.

The wine that all vocal wine drinkers will be looking for today, the 1997 Whatever, is the creation of Craig Wolf of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association. Mr. Wolf made note of this very hard to fine legend of a wine in a New York Times article by Eric Asimov. In the article Mr. Wolf pull off a pretty neat trick as he responds to the movement to open up direct shipping laws: He very capably denigrates both consumers and wine producers in once sentence. That’s not easy to do…you have to work at it.

The implication of his "small, very vocal segment" is that these wine lovers, the ones that purchase LOTS and LOTS of wine from retailers, restaurants and wineries, really don’t matter to him and the wholesalers he represents. And I can understand that. It’s awful difficult to really pay attention to this big spending, influential, but small, group of wine lovers when your main concerns is making sure 15 year-old Lisa Schoolgirl isn’t ordering 1997 Whatever on her laptop while hiding under her bed covers at night (a trick that is always followed by her faking sickness the next day so she can stay home from school and convince the delivery person that, yes, she really is 21 years old even though she lost her drivers license. Craig Wolf is worried about this group not getting wine, as well as worrying that the small, vocal segment of adults don’t get their 1997 Whatever. He’s a busy guy.

But Mr. Wolf also finds a way to denigrate the producer. "Eh…it’s just 1997 Whatever". I suspect the owners of Chateau Whatever work pretty hard to make and sell their elusive bottling that Craig has now made famous. In fact, I’ll bet the VP of Marketing at Chateau Whatever spends a GREAT DEAL of time begging his few distributors across the country to PLEASE sell the wine they said you would!! Who knows, maybe the folks at Chateau Whatever decided to drop their wholesalers and start selling their wine direct to retailers and to consumers. After all, why give away margin to a distributor who is so willing to denigrate your wine and wines of other small producers right there in the NEW YORK TIMES!!!!

If you ever wanted a pure explanation of how the wholesaler community views fine wine lovers and producers of fine wines in America, all you need to do is re-read Craig Wolf’s statement today in the New York Times. Make no mistake. He knew he was talking to the NEW YORK TIMES. He knew he was talking to a reporter who’s article would be read by millions including the vast majority of the winemaking community and the fine wine drinkers in the United States. He chose his words carefully. So let me remind everyone what he carefully chose to say about wine drinkers and fine wine producers:

"most Americans were satisfied with the system as it is except for a
small, very vocal segment who say they can’t get their bottle of 1997

Craig Wolf, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association

16 Responses

  1. Himself - January 30, 2008

    I was pretty surprised at the article, specifically that Eric didn’t push back harder on the obvious self-interest in Wolf’s comments.
    But at least the SWRA got a mention. Rome was not built in a day, or rather, the entrenched self-interest of a potent few won’t be dismantled in a day or even a generation.
    Keep fighting the good fight, Tom.

  2. Douglas Trapasso - January 30, 2008

    Let’s say I owned a wine store in a state that did not allow me to ship to other states, just my own. Now, follow this carefully. Tell me if what I propose would be legal or not.
    First of all, I would put a full page ad in my local paper asserting that I understood the law prohibiting out of state shipping of wine, and since I want my wine store to obey the law at all times, I will run my store in accordance with this law.
    The next day, I will run another full page ad announcing that I have added to my wine business. I will now begin interstate shipment of styrofoam containers with circular cutouts (SCCC for short).
    Now as a longtime collector of SCCC, I know how important it is to protect them during shipment. I will provide several options with various costs for my customers.
    I can stuff your SCCCs with newspapers. Or I can protect them with empty bottles from my wine shop.
    Or if you want to REALLY protect them, you can choose very heavy bottles filled with liquid, of which I can offer you hundreds to choose from.
    OK, you get this. I am not selling you wine, I am selling you styrofoam and you are making a conscious choice to protect your styrofoam with some of the bottles available in my wine shop.
    I await a knock on my door from Wine.com any second now . . .

  3. Matthew Apsokardu - January 31, 2008

    Great post Tom, I was very surprised when I first read that quote. It almost seemed like a joke.
    First of all, like you said, it shows utter disrespect for those people who spend a large portion of their money on wine. These specialized consumers make up the backbone of wine commerce.
    Secondly, it shows very little knowledge of the pulse of the wine community. Every retailer I’ve spoken to has serious concerns with shipping law. Furthermore, the reaction of the online wine community should provide some barometer for how wine loving consumers react to bad business practices and shipping laws.
    The only Americans who are satisfied with the system are the ones who aren’t yet aware of how broken it is.
    Good call on this one.

  4. Matthew Apsokardu - January 31, 2008

    On a final note, I think Mr. Wolfe may have watched this video too much – http://youtube.com/watch?v=Xz7_3n7xyDg

  5. Fredric Koeppel - January 31, 2008

    Tom, I was disappointed that Eric didn’t talk to you for an opinion that would balance Wolf’s mean-spirited and self-serving dismissal of the potential market for Internet wine sales and trans-state delivery. The fact that he brought up the tired canard about internet sales and home delivery leading to teenage binge drinking and that THAT nefarious myth didn’t get rebuttal was also disappointing. The NYTimes wine and spirits columnist occupies the most important position in the country in regard to those subjects; it’s a “bully pulpit” whose power perhaps should be used sparingly but shouldn’t be neglected.

  6. Mark Koppen - January 31, 2008

    Thank God the WSWA is saving us from that cheap English binge drinking…
    In many ways the interview speaks for itself and intelligent people will reach their own conclusion.
    Matthew – love the video; whatever.

  7. Dan Cochran - January 31, 2008

    That is simply the most asinine and dismissive, self-serving comment I have ever seen with regard to wine consumers. This guy just KNOWS that he and his mafia-like organization are screwing consumers, and he is, in effect, laughing contemptuously at all of us dumb peons who want a dangerous thing called FREEDOM!! F— him and the horse he rode in on!

  8. Tom Casagrande - January 31, 2008

    Unbelievable on may levels. Wolf and the Wholesalers Association are interested in protecting their profits and turf, nothing else. Liars. And Wine.com are unrepentant snitches. I will never again order anything from them (not that I ordered that much from them anyway, but hey, symbolic gestures are gestures nonetheless). BTW, the 1997 Whatever is on the decline, anyway. Last bottle I had was browning at the rim and smelled maderized.

  9. Thomas Pellechia - January 31, 2008

    I agree with Fred. Eric A. should not have allowed that idiot to go without a rebuttal. But then, maybe even the mighty Gray Lady bends to the wishes of the nuts with the money. Eric is subject to editors.
    It’s amazing how the WSWA can find someone with Quanita’s balls…

  10. Jeremy Parzen - January 31, 2008

    Great post… and great quote from you in Eric’s post today… your voice of support for specialty retailers and consumers (like this one) is greatly appreciated…

  11. Mark V Marino - January 31, 2008

    I have addressed this with Alder, Eric and most of the wine blog community repeatedly. There is a solution and it is win win if implemented correctly. The laws need to be uniform and streamlined, the same in every state! The revenue streams could be adjusted to include the current folks that have established businesses. The result would free up a lot of busy work caused by the different state laws on the wine producers and thus reduce the cost of producing wine across the board. There are a lot of folks that seem to fear the change but it does not have to be traumatic, I think the Supreme Court decisions reflect the attitude that any man should be able to order and enjoy wine in his home despite where he might live and where he might order it from. Being here in the California wine country I see this repeatedly and my clients are very successful people who will not tolerate being discriminated against by outdated state laws, this has to change and it has to be fair for all consumers!

  12. Thomas Pellechia - February 1, 2008

    The way it works across the fifty states is written in the U.S. Constitution’s 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition.
    To make the laws uniform in all states means changing the Constitution. Not that it shouldn’t be done; just that it won’t be done easily. WSWA is living off a bad Constitutional Amendment and a Supreme Court that continually views alcohol as a moral issue.
    In the opinion of that case in May 2005 that everyone thought was going to open up wine shipping, Justice Kennedy specifically pointed out that alcohol is a “special” case commodity. Even more special than guns, apparently.

  13. 1WineDude - February 3, 2008

    It’s only a small, vocal minority because the current archaic wine shipping regulations are too much for most people to even bother handling.
    Seems like you need multiple PhDs, an azimuth, and star charts to navigate that complex mess!
    I’ve been blogging about this frequently (see http://1winedude.blogspot.com/2008/01/wine-communism-us-states-non-compliance.html ), with more posts on the way.
    Interestingly, I’ve noticed that these posts are getting hits from the PA State government and from folks in the U.S. senate. So we need to keep up the fight, because we’re getting some attention!

  14. Mark V Marino - February 3, 2008

    Yes Thomas it is a big undertaking this is why it has been the law for 75 years. But I think it is a worthwhile effort and would ultimately benefit everyone. It is certainly time something was done as I see so many suffering because of this old and outdated amendment.

  15. Mark V Marino - February 3, 2008

    Yes Thomas it is a big undertaking this is why it has been the law for 75 years. But I think it is a worthwhile effort and would ultimately benefit everyone. It is certainly time something was done as I see so many suffering because of this old and outdated amendment.

  16. Thomas Pellechia - February 4, 2008

    What we need is Al Gore fighting for keeping the 21st Amendment–maybe then the Supreme Court will vote against it…
    That’s a joke, but that is the problem. Others making moral (and political) decisions where they should be making judicial.

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