The short answer is that although there are thousands of different wines written about and reviewed in the wine press every year the choices available to us where we live in any given market is limited by the wines carried by the various wholesalers selling to the retailers in your area. The United States still operates a 3 tier system of control that has been in place with very little change since the repeal of Prohibition (1933). The system consists of Producers, Wholesalers (and Importers), and Retailers. Each state has it’s own laws regarding how alcohol sales are regulated but it all still comes down to producers make wine and can only sell to licensed wholesalers, who can only sell to licensed retailers, who are the only ones able to sell to consumers. Many states do allow for direct sale of wine from wineries to consumers but even those states make the rules complicated. Some states allow direct sales from wineries to addresses within the same state, and others only allow direct shipping to the consumer from wineries in states that have reciprocity with their state. In the beginning this system was honestly set up to protect the consumer from the kinds of rotgut being sold during the Prohibition heyday of bootlegging. Now it seems like a complicated web of state fees and permissions and prohibitions, and a strong lobbying effort by the wholesalers industry (who would be most impacted by more direct to consumer sales). I myself often read a wine review for a wine I am interested in trying and go on a quest to see if it available anywhere in my market. I live in a state that does not allow direct shipment of wine to consumers. Even the United States Supreme Court was split in their decision in 2007 on a ruling regarding direct shipments to consumers, and in the end did nothing to make that objective any easier.
So how do I pick a good wine from the available selection in my market? We’ll start to tackle that in my next post.