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Why You Can't Find It Here!
Why you can't find a particular wine in Indiana
Ever wonder why you can't find that great bottle of wine you had on your last trip to New York or California in Indiana? We have to answer that question on a daily basis as customers show us or email us their cell phone photos of the wines they have enjoyed out-of-state. At least 50% of the time we have to say "sorry it's not available in Indiana" and many times they just don't understand "why can't you just order it?" so we try to explain.
To really understand how this came to be, you have to go back to December of 1933 when the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified. The amendment fundamentally made alcohol a controlled substance and gave its regulation back to the states. That means forty-eight states each reinvented the wheel. Ask yourself what happens when any of our states or even the federal government is given complete control over an industry. You're right! It becomes lawmaking by lobbyists and the most powerful lobbies make the rules. Hence we were given the three-tier system, and here in Indiana we have it, along with the one inch thick book of Alcoholic Beverage Law that I am forced to spend $40 on for a revised edition every year.
Under the three-tier system the winery must sell its wine to a distributor in Indiana who in turn sells it to us, the retailer. If a wine is not distributed in the state, I cannot buy it directly from the winery. Some times I can get around this by working directly with the winery and then negotiate with one of the smaller distributors to bring it in for me. Unfortunately, that usually involves pallet-level quantities (56 cases minimum).
The result is... say you own a winery in California that produces between 6,000 and 15,000 cases a year. First, you are not that big a business. Depending upon how much you sell your wine for, your annual volume is somewhere between $3 and maybe $10 million dollars a year, not exactly the Fortune 500! You have fifty states to deal with, with fifty sets of laws and fees for the honor of being distributed in their state.
There are plenty of consultants you can hire to help you with this. However, your brand is pretty popular and Wine Spectator keeps giving you 90-plus point scores. Your best bet is to sell as much as you can through your wine club and to people in states you can ship to directly, because you make almost three times as much money on every bottle by eliminating the distributor and the retailer. That takes care of maybe 25% of your production. The other 75%, if you can sell it all in New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas and California you only have to deal with five sets of laws. What would you do?
And that, dear readers; is why you can't buy the Wine Spectator wine of the year, Peter Michael Au Paradis Cabernet, along with hundreds of other brands in Indiana.
December 2, 2015