We live in a place that provides us with an astounding array of adult beverages at our fingertips. Really, we often take for granted the broad selection available to us of wines, beers and spirits, which create envy among our visitors. “Wow, you can get just about anything here, and so many places sell the stuff. Wish we had that arrangement back home.”
Yet, believe it or not, there are many, many products from a wide range of places to which we don't have access or availability.
A little background: Louisiana, like many other states, is considered a 3-tier sales and distribution state by law. All alcoholic consumables, including beer, wine, and spirits, have to be sold by the manufacturer (no matter where they are located in the world) to the distributor (usually a company licensed to do this particular business in a specific state) and then that distributor in turn sells to a retailer, not directly to the consumer.
For those of you who think you can bypass all of those added channels between you and the manufacturer, that door is not really open to you. If a winery or distillery decides to sell to you through the internet, and that is a big ’if”, then that winery or distillery likely will charge you at the highest national retail price. But not all wineries or distilleries are licensed to do business in that manner when it comes to residents of Louisiana. Many of those manufacturers simply choose not to ship here directly to the consumer, namely you.
The larger point being, and the main point of this diatribe, is that many products from many places often do not make it to us. There may be a problem with not enough quantity of product available to serve a mid-tier state, like Louisiana. Fulfilling demand in a bigger place, like California or New York, can be easier and more profitable. Then there is the question of a manufacturer finding a Louisiana distributor to take an interest in the product or product line. Local distributors are happier to deal with the “low hanging fruit” where there is already in place consumer demand and good profit margins. Esoteric new stuff that demands additional energies and sales efforts are usually and often simply not what our local distributors are seeking.
And it’s not only the distributors that can be impediments to new products on the shelf or added to wine lists. The local retailer or restaurateur are also seeking products that are well-known from places familiar to the consumer. Remember that at all levels of distribution, all sales are final. Buying a yet unknown product and then having no one show an interest in a purchase is money sitting around not earning its keep. Not an attractive option when every dollar in a business counts.
You may have been familiar with all of those rules and laws of the marketplace and the state. Sometimes the labels you don’t see here are not even necessarily esoteric products. Those “ain’t here at all and never were” labels can be mainstream products that you likely are not totally familiar with, and won’t ever be because we won’t be seeing them here.
Take, for instance, one of what I consider to be this market’s biggest “holes:” New York State wines. New York, as well as Washington State, is achieving terrific results with Riesling. This amazing, full of aroma and flavor wine, low in alcohol when compared to other American wines, is perfect for our cuisines. Creole, Cajun, Vietnamese, even Italian cuisine pair up well with a bone-dry Riesling. The fruit expressions and acid in this wine put our palate in the proper frame to enjoy spice and freshness.
For those of you snickering right now, most Rieslings are indeed dry, that is all the sugars in the grapes have been converted to alcohol during fermentation. On the back of every bottle of Riesling is a rating based on that wine’s “sweet” profile as measured on an international sweet scale. Most Rieslings are not sweet, and the manufacturers have taken to labeling their wines “dry” on the front label.
New York is also doing a very good job with Cabernet Franc, a delightful Bordeaux grape that is also setting the world on fire with expressions from Virginia. Another wine and state we don’t see around here.
Believe it or not, some of the recent wines coming out of Texas are quite delightful. There are also other fine wines being made in New Mexico besides the bargain-priced sparkling wine, Gruet. I’ve also tasted some wonderful sparkling wines from Michigan and Idaho.
We can look in another direction with the same result since there are beers from all over the place not available around here. Colorado is overrun with great beer and great beer styles. Northern California is taking a back seat to no one in this area, and Washington State and Oregon are stepping up their beer game.
Spirits have traditionally been made, and made well, in upper New York State. Whiskey, in particular, delivers an interesting and delightful sensation, as well as a fine history. Think Rip Van Winkle.
We are just now seeing well-priced and decent sparkling wines from France’s Loire Valley. There are plenty of these evidently available to us but not in our market. Italy and Spain also spring to mind as honored wine producing countries with a lot of holes in what we are able to enjoy at home.
I think you get the point. As many products as we enjoy in New Orleans, there are still loads of other styles and other labels which we never see. I suppose this is a classic example of no matter how good things are in our own back yard, we cannot help but look over the fence and see how green that grass is over there.
Read Happy Hour here on MyNewOrleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com.