Thursday, March 4, 2010

Love by the Glass – Virginia Wine Week March 22-28th

Kudos to the Virginia wine industry for campaigning across the state to create the first ever Virginia Wine Week, Love by the Glass. The intention is not just to promote Virginia wineries, but encouraging restaurants and wine shops throughout the Commonwealth to serve Virginia wine. As I explore and discover more about great wine offered by our state, I began to wonder why these great wines are not easily found in restaurants and retailers. I had assumed this was mostly due to the fact our wineries are smaller operations with limited staff to dedicate to the larger sales and marketing aspects of their business. While that might somewhat be true, it turns out to be more of a political issue than I realized.

Our state legislature has had a long history of regulating alcohol to its taxpayers. Upon the repeal of prohibition, Virginia adopted a three-tier distribution system: 1) producer 2) distributor 3) retailer. In the 80’s, Virginia recognized that wine was not so scary, perhaps even profitable, and thus allowed wineries to self-distribute their wine directly to retailers. And over the course of two decades, the wine industry really began to flourish in Virginia. But from what I can gather, some out-of-state wineries (I would bet North Carolina) filed suit in federal court because they felt Virginia was violating its own alcohol distribution laws. But let’s face it, these out-of-state folks were really just pissed that they didn’t get to distribute their wine directly to retailers within our state. In 2006, wineries were prohibited to self-distribute their own wine forcing the use of a distributor. With the encouragement of wine lobbyists, (now that’s an issue I can get behind), our General Assembly has attempted to assist the distribution problem for small wineries with the creation of Virginia Winery Distribution Company (VWDC). This is non-profit entity assists in the legal distribution of wine. From what I understand, this system is far from perfect at this time, but sounds like a step in the right direction considering the legal/political issues involved. (If you care to understand more, check out my two primary sources)

So what does any of this have to do with Virginia Wine Week? If you are a restaurant owner, retailer or just a wine lover, then serve/sell/drink Virginia wine!!!