from the sf chron: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...
Given Zin's experience (and that of some others here), I'm wondering what their thoughts might be on this. Lots of new retailers in San Diego but I find myself wondering how they are all going to make it; particularly when some don't seem to know much about wine to begin with...
The more I learn about wine the more I think you're crazy to go into the business. For instance, take the Reno area. This is Rombauer central. People go crazy for the stuff. But it's more of a status symbol (it shows you're solidly upper middle class) than taste.
And then I hear the stories about strong arm tactics by wine distributors.
And a lot of the people who go into the business don't know much. Several years ago a wine store opened that focused on wines $25 a bottle or under. It was me as a customer who explained to the owner that she need to check out Kermit Lynch's portfolio. She had no idea who Kermit Lynch was.
I may not have as much experience as our list veterans, but as I interact with the public and our small local shops, it all comes down to Customer Service and Good Value.
In our town, we have 3 shops and things have been tight. However, the knowledge and passion usually make it through the worries and we all share the benefits of the love of wine.
Some folks may not make it due to many possible factors, but as long as we do what we can to support the decent shops, the ones that survive will make things better for all, IMO.
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I live in an area where wine can only be purchased locally in a wine/liquor store. Grocery stores are not allowed to sell wine. So my experience is likely different from others who may post here.
There are gnerally two different philosophies that take place--make money on margins or volume. Certainly these are not mutually exclusive, but you get the idea. So we have those liquor stores that will focus primarily on wine, those that will carry wine because they have customers who will buy it, and those that attempt to do both.
On top of that, there are over 20 wholesalers/distributors in the metro area here (some states have fewer than what can be counted on one hand). So there is a lot of competition between those outfits for shelf-share of their portfolios.
Even so, I still have to order my Champagne from K & L or Chambers Street.
I agree with Bonne at the Chron -- consumers are entering another golden age for wine retail in the U.S. The reasons why: 1) there is a massive selloff going on right now because of the economy. There's never been a better time in 15 years to buy affordable wine. 2) International wine is everywhere now. It's not just Kermit Lynch and Wildman importing great wine. Thad said, the selection has never been more diverse. 3) new technologies and higher winemaking standards are creating a much higher percentage of drinkable wine under $20.
These are all great things for the consumer. For the wine distributors, this market is a nightmare...only the very fit will survive...and the ones that do will totally thrive.