I spent the last week with many of the smartest minds in the wine world discussing all aspects of the wine industry from growing to sales. During the discussion, many questions were raised but one question kept rising to the surface: Why aren't we TRYING more wines?
Sure, most of us drink wine, and many of us try and pair it with food, but how many of us try wine with an open mind, just to try it? For instance, did you know that Traminette is the official grape of the state of Indiana? No? Neither did I. In fact; I had never heard of Traminette before in my life. Most of us reach this crossroads at one point or another. Do I seek this new thing out? Dissect it into pieces and figure out what makes it tick? Or do I go along my merry way no better or worse for the wear? If you are the type that wants to dig a little deeper and experience something new, then Direct to Consumer shopping is for you.
Okay, I'm inquisitive. Why is Direct to Consumer for me? Well, let me put it like this. You know that moment when you are sitting at your desk, and your wine club shipment arrives? How excited you are to receive it, even though you don't know what's in it yet? It's like that... Only targeted. If you're anything like me, half the fun of receiving that shipment is the discovery of what's inside. What did the winemaker send me? I usually hope it's one of my favorites, something I know the story of so I can share that experience with my friends while I pour the wine. But what if it isn't? What if it's... Traminette? It appears we have reached our crossroads. You could try the bottle and form an opinion about the grape and move on. Or, you could dive in headfirst.
If you do receive a Traminette, and like me, you had never heard of it before, I can promise you one thing, you will never know Traminette from only one bottle. It's impossible. In Indiana, Traminette tends to be a sweeter varietal while, in Western New York, it's a dryer style with more acidity. Both regions grow it, and both produce terrific wine, they're just very different. Regional fingerprints matter in wine and should be celebrated. I heard a great quote recently from Master Sommelier Christopher Bates (@Sommelierbates) . He said, "The worst compliment you can give a wine, is to say that this is a great wine for this region. A great wine is a great wine, period." If you can get your hands on a good bottle of Traminette, I would recommend it.
So how do you get this great wine if they don't carry it around where I live and shop? The answer is Direct to Consumer. You can go to the website of someone who produces a Traminette, and buy one. The wine will then be delivered to your office and bring you the same level of joy as receiving your wine club shipment. Wahoo! Wine tonight!
So great news, right? The world of wine is our oyster, and we can order that Western New York Traminette to pour side by side with my sweeter style wine club Traminette to dissect and compare. Still, knowing all this the big question remains: Why aren't we doing this? Well, it appears there are still some hurdles to clear before we call our friends over and get out our tasting cards.
The first hurdle is how to find these small wineries producing whatever interesting varietal you want to try? There are lots of ways; you could Google, ask your friends, tweet, or check in with a wine grower's association. Or you can use a service like the Qorkz Marketplace that allows many small producers to conglomerate in one place online to sell their products. But this is only a small hurdle, the biggest hurdle of the entire industry is permitting.
Why is permitting a hurdle? For my favorite California winery to be able to sell to your discerning palate in Illinois, that California winery has to go through an expensive and arduous permitting process. In fact, that's true for all 50 states. Wineries can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year making sure that they are permitted and submitting the proper sales tax information in all 50 states. It's the reason when you look on Qorkz.com that some wineries are only permitted to sell in a few states. There are groups out there working hard to change this such as www.freethegrapes.org, and hopefully one day we will be able to buy and sell wine across state lines like we do most other products. But until the grapes are freed, permitting isn't a hurdle so much as it's a big daunting mountain for small producers and consumers alike.
Want a short-term solution to the problem? At Qorkz, we are firm believers in the use of wine lockers. What is a wine locker and why on earth would I ever use one? Good question, thanks for asking. Let's use a hypothetical to demonstrate. Bob from Iowa just came to Napa on vacation. He buys two bottles of wine from Napa Winery and takes them home with him. Even though Napa Winery is not permitted in Iowa, they can sell Bob these bottles because he is physically in Californa and not in Iowa. This is an idea in the industry known as the termination of the sale. The sale terminated in California, so no out of state permit is required.
Let's change the hypothetical now but keep the same players. Bob is in Iowa and wants to buy two more bottles of Napa Winery wine. Whoops, sorry Bob, Napa Winery can't ship to Iowa without a permit. Ahh, but Bob signed up for a wine locker in California. Now, when Bob goes online to buy from Napa Winery, he puts in his California-based wine locker as the shipping address. Napa Winery can ship those two bottles to Bob's wine locker, thus terminating the sale in California. Just as if Bob himself had walked into the winery and purchased two bottles of wine. Once the sale of wine is completed, Bob can mail himself his wine from his wine locker without being subject to the permitting process.
Pretty neat huh? Guess what? There's more! By compiling his wine purchases from Napa Winery, Sonoma Winery, and Santa Barbara winery in the same wine locker, Bob has ensured that his wine is stored in the appropriate temperature until he is ready to mail it. Once Bob is ready to mail his wine, he can consolidate it and ship just one package from California to Iowa instead of three, thus saving Bob, a bundle on shipping. Qorkz recommends our friends at www.allwayscool.com for your California-based wine locker needs.
I don't know about you, but I am ready to grab my friends and get tasting! Living in San Francisco, people drink Chardonnay by the gallon. My personal favorite tasting for my friends is pouring an Oaky Napa Chardonnay (such as the 2012 Stella Reserve Chardonnay) against one grown in high heat area and tasting of tropical fruits (such as the Coruce 2013 Chardonnay). Hard to believe they're the same fruit, and both are terrific. Be sure to let us know some of your favorites and enjoy your exploration into the wide world of wine!
David Toomey - CEO Qorkz.com