The Ugly Truth About Wine Retailers
Among the rarest of things is finding a person in business or politics who is willing to publicly tell the truth, even if it reveals something ugly about them and their industry. Usually, the person doesn’t realize the ugliness of their statement. I think that was the case with Veronica Litton, general manager and partner of the one-location Virginia Philip Wine, Spirits & Academy in Florida.
In commenting on the possibility of Florida opening to wine shipments from out-of-state wine retailers, Ms. Litton offered this unfortunate nugget of ugly truth:
“the Florida market is a very important market for fine wines ranking 2nd, 3rd or 4th every year. … We should not need to compete with other retailers in other parts of the US.”
It’s not tough to figure out where the ugliness lies in this retailer’s statement. If you are a wine-loving consumer in Florida she’s really telling you, “F-you….you’ll buy what we give you to buy. Want something we don’t have? Tough.”
It’s common knowledge that wine wholesalers everywhere are genetically opposed to free trade and real consumer access to products. In this respect, they are both irredeemable and predictable. What many folks don’t realize is that the majority of wine retailer (those who actually deal with the wine buying public) are equal if not more dismissive of consumers. Just like Ms. Phillips. Her main concern is to be protected from having to compete in a free market in order to put more cash in her pocket, all at the expense of the same consumers she claims to serve.
If you want further proof of the anti-consumer disposition of many retailers, consider the American Beverage Licensees, a national association of wine retailers. This organization of wine retailers was among the first to submit a brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Byrd v. Tennessee. In their “Friend of the Court” brief they argued that states ought to have every right to, and should, bar its consumers from receiving wine shipments from out-of-state wine stores. Although in their brief they couch these claims in the language of protecting consumers from “tainted wine”, that’s not their primary reason for making this kind of claim to the court. Their reason for doing so is the same as Ms. Phillip’s: “We should not need to compete with other retailers in other parts of the US.”
If you read the story at Wine-Searcher written by Liza Zimmerman, you’ll learn that Ms. Litton’s plea for protection from competition comes after the Florida alcohol regulators declared that given a past court case, out-of-state retailers are authorized to ship wine into the state. Predictably, the state’s wholesalers and retailers have responded to this declaration by claiming the sky will fall. It would, of course, not fall. All that would happen is that Florida consumers would have far greater access to a far larger selection of wines offered by Florida wholesalers and retailers.
So, in the end, we ought to reserve some measure of satisfaction in seeing Ms. Litton’s anti-consumer motivations revealed. Ugly as they are, they remind wine buyers who is on their side.