Mail Bonding III

Our wine critic reads from her mail bag.

After my series of columns on wine shipments, I received a slew of letters, mostly reflecting their disgust for the state-sanctioned mockery of consumer rights. To say the least, I'm ecstatic that people are showing displeasure, and encourage everyone to check out and make your voice heard. I applaud the insight and questions from everyone. Here"s the highlights:

Ross educated us on how to sneak juice over the state line: "I'm a transplant to Florida from Texas, where Vinifera (the scientific name for grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) grows natively and abundantly ... Some of my favorite varietals are made by micro- wineries there. My point is, I'm sure the mail carrier is on to us. I mean, he"s got to be wondering just what we're doing with these monthly case shipments of Texas olive oil."

Perry asked pertinent questions: "In your column, it is noted that consumers in (Georgia) are now allowed to buy up to five cases of wine from wineries that do not have wholesaler representation in the state. Based on this point, I have a few of questions.

Is there a list available of wineries that currently have wholesale representation and how/when would this list be updated? Is the five-case limit per purchase? Aside from traveling to the vineyard, can you recommend some good ways of obtaining limited production wines from wineries that do have wholesale representation in Georgia?"

There isn't really a comprehensive list of wineries available, but there is a monthly subscription magazine called Southern Beverage Journal that lists 80 percent of all wines. There are both Georgia and Florida versions. In North Carolina, since the government handles all liquor there, there's an excellent, comprehensive online database that lists all wineries and their products: www.ncabc .com/permits/prod_reports/brand.asp.

The five-case limit is yearly, and, according to a state representative's office, the Georgia law only allows shipment back from the winery, and, unfortunately, not over the Internet.

As for the last question, I cannot stress how important it is to make friends with your local, independent wine shop owner. These knowledgeable and helpful folk can get just about anything for you if motivated enough (read: support them with your wine purchases). Sometimes the winery denies all access to the really limited juice, but 99 percent of the time, the wine shop can hook you up.

An anonymous reader painted an insightfully revealing portrait of the wine industry:

"As a retail wine consultant I'd like to thank Ms. Eason for her timely article on the oligopoly which dominates our trade. While it's obvious that "behemoth chains" of industrial capital annihilate with impersonal force, perhaps one should also raise "who" questions along with the "what": mega-wineries deal with state-licensed wholesalers who hire their salespeople exclusively to sell mega product at the expense of micro wineries. These wholesalers, in turn, are given exclusive legal right over their products; and (in some states) small wineries cannot change distributors. Therefore, the small are stuck in the same boat with those out to crush them as dictated by the "natural laws" of market competition.

"To a certain extent, those (consumers) who do not actively pursue the small, unique, and different inevitably fall into the snares of the corporate mindset — whatever the activity or commodity in question. Raging at the dumb beast of market forces is a lot simpler than pointing a finger at the mass marketer who profits by the system. People run megawineries, and other people sell megawine. After all, what"s really wrong with megawine is that the customer is cheated.

"And while sound arguments can, indeed, be made for the homogenization of basic commodities — oligopolistic production to efficient scale and all that — it's imperative to understand that wine isn't. Refusing megawine is as fundamental as rejecting fast food, as in both instances what's really at stake is one's capacity to live a bit better and freer. The solution is to embrace the small and unique. Don"t fall in love with power, and ask for Viognier."

E-mail Corkscrew at corkscrew, write to 1310 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, FL 33605, or fax 813-248-9999.

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