Monday, March 30, 2009

Wine in grocery stores...why is this so important?

I continue to believe selling wine in grocery stores, alongside food with which it pairs so well, is the best way to introduce new consumers to the appreciation of healthy, responsible consumption of wine with their meals. In failing to pass this measure, we may have missed our opportunity to greatly increase the number of New Yorkers who enjoy wine in this way on a regular basis and have hence restricted our opportunity to grow as an industry.

I agree that there are many great wine shops in the state that provide excellent selection and service to their customers. Many of these shops sell our wines. Over the past few days I have received many emails from wine shops who suggest that grocery stores will only carry cheap, low quality wines and will be unable to provide knowledgeable wine service. Then, in nearly the same breath, I hear the cry that the very grocery stores that fail to provide the great selection and service that wine drinkers have come to expect from their local wine shops, are going to take away their customers. This is a perspective on marketing that I don't understand.

Even if the grocery store wine selection and service is abysmal as I am lead to believe by some, the grocery store setting will provide a level of convenience that will introduce new customers to the enjoyment of wine. The wine shops will have a competitive advantage to retain their current customers as well as the opportunity to engage a growing customer base.

My view on this issue in not borne of a selfish desire to grow my business at the expense of others'. It comes from my desire to grow and expand the wine industry of New York State; from growers, to wineries, to wholesalers, to stores (liquor stores AND grocery stores), to the consumer.

The loser that we must not forget is the grower. The grape industry in the New York is facing the most catastrophic downturn since the 1970's. Without a substantial increase in customer base and sales, I will be forced to make drastic cuts to growers who I have worked closely with for the past ten years. But it's not just me. And it's not just the boutique, family wineries that we need to think about. Many thousands of tons of grapes are likely to drop in the vineyards this fall. These are the grapes that would have gone to some of the very large wineries in New York and into the mainstream wines that likely would have been common on most grocery store shelves. These wines don't come from huge, corporate wineries. They come from farms. They come from families who have worked for decades and generations to build the agricultural communities that make up the grape growing regions of New York State.

When I speak about this issue, I'm not just talking about a bottle wine and who gets the buck for selling it. I speak the voice of our farms, and our families. And I hope for the day when we can work as an industry to grow and flourish together.

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