Touted wine not for sale locally? Get creative

Published: Wednesday, May. 28, 2014 - 12:00 am

A couple times a week, I receive emails such as these: “Please recommend some retail outlets where I can find your selections, as there are many I would like to try,” or, “I enjoyed your column, but I am a little disappointed in attempting to find some of the wines you mentioned.”

More wines from more wineries are for sale in our country than in any other country; they’re just not all for sale in the same place. In one way, that would be physically impossible.

But in another, it’s also very American.

A woolly patchwork of liquor laws, a legacy of our grand experiment called Prohibition, distributes wine and other alcoholic beverages unevenly across the 50 states. A wine importer who sells in Illinois, for example, may not in Colorado, Florida or Virginia. In Pennsylvania, a state board chooses which wines get to be sold within the state.

My wine columns – and their recommendations – are published in each of those states, occasionally more.

When I recommend a wine, I hope a reader can find it and experience its special qualities, too. That’s the point of a critic’s approval.

But unlike a local restaurant reviewer or a book or movie critic writing about a book or film in national distribution (or available online), not everything I like is everywhere to be found.

Need for disclaimer

For one, that’s why we print at the end of most of my columns “If your wine store does not carry these wines, ask for one similar in style and price.” That’s encouragement to develop a relationship with a salesperson who can help you match your wine likes with my ink or pixels.

Couldn’t I list even a smattering of the retail stores that carry a recommended wine? That’s a time and real estate vampire. Couldn’t the column recommend only wines that are in wide national distribution, big-name brands that are produced in mass quantity? Not what you deserve.

In the end and on occasion, both you and I become frustrated. I know that when I pitch something, there won’t always be a catcher. You know that when reading about a wine that excites you, you may well never taste it.

Technology can help

All that said, there’s still help. A couple of fee-free websites good for searches can be found at wine-searcher.com and snooth.com. Use the drop-downs on either site to list your ZIP code, and they will help you find a wine that you’re after near where you live. For $39 a year, you can subscribe to wine-searcher.com’s Pro version and access more than 6 million wine retail listings all over the globe.

Phone apps such as Delectable, Drync and Vivino can also assist you in finding that wine. Delectable (available for iPhone only) has a ship-to feature, workable if your state allows incoming wine shipments. But because these are phone apps, they’re geared more to discussing wines among users than to locating retail outlets. Just let your fingers talk your way to a shop by asking around.

Finally, do a Google search for a wine that you want to buy, locate its producer and, if the winery has a website or some other means of electronic contact (such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter), contact it and ask if and where it sells its wines in your area. You’d be surprised how eager a winemaker would be to help you do that.

Or you can be pleased merely reading about good wines, letting that be its own inspiration for your search for fine wine.

Read more articles by Bill St. John



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