Wednesday, September 7, 2016

You Can't Ship Your Wine Home or How Fucked Up is This?

The names and places in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.
Recently, two customers travelling together came to a winery. One couple was from Bumfuck, Egypt and the other was from Nofuck, Vagina. They liked the wine and wondered if the winery could ship it home for them. So happens, the winery was not licensed to ship to either Egypt or Vagina, but the customers were told that they could check the wine as luggage on the plane - which is cheaper and faster than shipping anyway.
They purchased six bottles each and two twelve-pack shippers and went merrily on their way to other wineries where they filled up their twelve-pack shippers.
One of the couples, I think it was the rocket scientist, not the CIA intelligence officer, figured it would be easier to travel if they just dropped the wine off at the Office Despot and had it shipped home - regardless of cost. They informed the Despot that it was art (liquid art, get it) and $123 later they are at the airport, through security, and on their way home when they get a phone call from the Despot.
Seems the UPS driver from Yakima recognized the UPS-approved wine shipping boxes and refused to pick them up. Due to the number of wineries in the Yakima area, drivers are quite familiar with these boxes. Now what to do.
They called up the winery where they bought the shipper for help. Yes, the winery would claim the wine from the Office Despot and they in turn would authorize the Despot to refund the $123 shipping to the winery which would somehow decide what to do with it in the name of customer service. (Pull out concealed weapon and shoot yourself at this point!)
Now we get into the crazy part of US law. Wineries are required to have a federal basic permit and without it, you are shit out of luck. Thanks to Moron Hatch (R-Utah and member of the Moron Church which not only believes in talking snakes, but also believes that an Indian named Moroni buried some tablets in upstate New York and an alcoholic named Joseph Smith dug them up and translated them into King James English) you can lose your basic permit if you violate any law in any city, county, or state in the US.
Retailers, on the other hand, are not required to have a federal permit and therefore are not subject to the US law, only state law. It also seems easier (cheaper) for retailers to get individual state shipping permits than wineries.
Problem solved. Find a friendly retailer who is licensed to ship to Egypt and Vagina and have the retailer ship the wine for you. After all, you do have the refunded shipping from the Office Despot to pay for it.
Let's now examine the idiocy of this scenario. You can take wine on an airplane to any state if it is properly packaged even if you legally can't take wine into that state. (Believe it or not, there are states where it is against the law to take your case of wine from the Napa Valley home with you in your car.) You can't ship that wine to yourself via UPS or FedEx or God forbid, USPS. Most wineries in this area don't bother with expensive state permits and monthly reporting. It's a real pain in the ass. (See Why We Don't Ship to Texas) But a retailer can ship your wine to you. It's the same wine for God's sake. How stupid is that. So the wine is on its way.
Some day we will live in a country where you can legally smoke weed and ship wine to yourself. Grumpy will not live to see that day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The 1988 Wine Crisis or We Have Too Damn Many Wineries

The purveyors of doom were at it full bore in 1988 - long before most of today's winemakers were even born or at least, were still wet behind the ears. There were a whopping 70 wineries in the state - up from 11 in 1977. How are we going to deal with so many wineries?
Washington was still number 3 in production behind California and New York. Production was up 68% over the previous year, but consumption was only up 11%. Out-of-state wine sales were flat and national consumption was down 3%. Man, that sucks.
Simon Siegl, president of the Washington Wine Institute, was optimistic. In-state sales were up 17%, but out-of-state sales were up only 4%. He stated that we are undermarketed. We probably still are today with over 800 wineries in our tiny state.
F. W. Langguth, one of the larger wineries, was on the ropes with Chapter 11 due to oversupply of grapes and under supply of sales. They also had problems with trying to make German-style Riesling in Washington State. They actually found grapes at the end of October that were still just 18 brix (just like Germany) due to severe overcropping. Unfortunately, they had enough acid to rejuvenate a car battery. The wine was undrinkable.
At that time, there was no mention of Woodinville, only real wine country; Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla.
Premium wine was that which cost more than $4.00 per bottle. It didn't hurt that our largest, and best distributed brand was in that premium category and available in a "couple dozen" states. No Hardly Burgundy or Chabless here.
So, perhaps my glum outlook on the industry is premature after all. 28 years later, the industry is just fine and still growing. Most of the wineries going out of business are doing so because there is no market for used wineries and the owners are tired of being rich winery owners.
So, I guess all we need is a little more out-of-state marketing.
You can read the whole article here complete with quotes from Stan Clarke.