Monday, July 15, 2013

"I am a producer of fine wine..."

I just got this comment on another story I posted today, and I thought it deserved fuller treatment, so I'm putting it up as a post. Unfortunately -- but understandably -- it was an anonymous post, but I've heard similar stories from other importers and producers. They've all warned me that they must remain anonymous, because the bureaucrats at the PLCB are vindictive. I know this from personal experience; I've seen them retaliate against producers who have talked to me. name, even though that diminishes somewhat the poster's credibility.

Their credibility is, however, enhanced by their clear passion about this issue. This is a point we've tried to make a number of times: this is NOT about killing union jobs, this is NOT about making it easier to get cheap buzzbooze, this is NOT about beer in supermarkets. What this is choice, and how the PLCB denies it to Pennsylvanians. At least, to those of us who don't live close to the border. Many of us simply cross that border and take privatization, since the Legislature won't see fit to give it to us.

The winemaker has the floor.

I am a producer of fine wine. I sell wine in 35 states. We sometimes are able to sell wine in PA, but there is no other state I work in that operates like PA. We have to get through the PLCB, regardless of whether or not our wine is wanted by citizens. Unlike every other state I work with, PA has an organization that can limit access to our wine because they don't want to buy it, don't like the price I have assigned to it, or for whatever reason, they simply don't want to work with me.

I don't think that most Pennsylvanians realize how their access to fine wine is severely limited by the PLCB. Even when I know for a fact that I could be selling wine in PA, because people have contacted me and specifically said so, I am sometimes unable to do so because the PLCB refuses to purchase. The PLCB arrangement in PA consolidates power in the hands of one org, and many times in the hands of ONE individual. If I have a good relationship with this individual, I'm able to sell wine just fine in PA. If for some reason this individual doesn't like something I've done, like raise prices, then he/she can simply not buy. And he/she (the PLCB representative) is my ONLY option for selling wine into PA at the retail level. (There are exceptions for restaurants, but it is nominal, and honestly, a huge hassle.)

In most states, if a distributor is willing to take you on, that distributor then purchases your product and goes out into the market and sells it. Maybe it sells. Maybe it doesn't. That responsibility falls on the distributor and me. And if that distributor decides to decline to purchase your product or starts to perform poorly, then you have other distributors to choose from.

In PA, you can't even sell your wine to people who want it, unless you schmooze with the PLCB and give them their cut. So, in effect, PA citizens get taxed twice by their state government. I can think of no other example other than a mafia that works like this.

And the only producers of wine that are okay with an arrangement like this are massive producers of wine like Gallo and Constellation, who make millions and millions of cases of wine and grease the skids with the PLCB and lobby the state government and have so much low end wine that people want that the PLCB can't really say no to them. In the eyes of these massive producers, leaving the choice up to one individual who simply can't say no to them is a huge victory. They love an arrangement like this. It keeps producers like me out of the market and all it is is competition between their own brands. False competition, given that all the wines are ultimately made by the same company.

Lastly, the idea that a bunch of jobs would be lost or a bunch of deaths would all of a sudden occur is simply preposterous. If that was the case, the rest of America would be mayhem, as PA is one of the few states that inserts the state government into the selling of wine to this degree. And other states are not mayhem. They operate just fine, and there are plenty of jobs. The real difference between PA and most other states is that in most other states you have a much better and broader selection of wines to choose from when you go to a wine shop.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We were in Virginia recently and had some wonderful wine. We told the winery how much we'd appreciate being able to purchase the wine in Pennsylvania. They basically said it was impossible. We illegally bought a few bottles and brought them home.