You column stinks. First of all, it’s not funny. Second, I can never find any of the wines you recommend. Can’t you just tell me where to buy these wines? And, third, why don’t you take the trash out more often?
Thanks so much for writing such an eloquent composite letter reminiscent of the e-mails I receive every week complaining about the wines I choose to review. While your note was a little too honest and revealing, it does allow me a chance to offer my somewhat standard reply to frustrated readers.
Believe it or not, the goal of this column is not to frustrate you. All I want, in my own semi-literate way, is to get you excited about a subject I am passionate about. I endeavor each week to take you on a journey to explore a new corner of the infinitely interesting wine universe. Along the way, it makes sense to describe a wine or two that illustrates my point.
And therein lies the seed of so much reader-writer friction. Wine, in most cases, is made in finite amounts. It is then divvied up in a wide-ranging and complex system called the distribution chain. A lot or a little (or sometimes none) of a particular wine comes into the state depending largely on the arrangements made by wholesalers.
Your local retailer can buy a lot, a little or none of a particular wine from the wholesaler. More often it is none. Why? Because even a mega-retailer like Total Wine & More carries a mere fraction of all the wines made. You could double or triple Total Wine’s offerings and you would still be searching in vain for many, many wines.
This situation (which I consciously do not call a problem) is compounded by the fact that every year brings a new vintage. And furthermore, a fair number of wines are not exactly withheld from retailer shelves (because that would break the law in Georgia and some other states), but they are not promoted for retail sale. Some wines can only be found on restaurant wine lists. I do try to stay away from these “on-premise,” restaurant wines.
Anyway, you get the picture. There are many winemakers tending many vineyards in many varied climates around the world. And they bottle a lot of unique wines that finding a needle in a hundred haystacks would be easier than locating a particular wine from a specific vintage.
Yet, every week, I point my dim spotlight on one of these manifold wine labels. Invariably, I get clobbered because the wine shop around the corner does not carry that wine or has sold out of it. But to my eye, this is not the problem, this is the beauty of wine.
Wines are like diamonds. Everyone wants the famous Hope diamond, but it’s unavailable, so we settle for other exquisite versions of this dazzling mineral specimen. Everybody’s happy. If you cannot put your mitts on a wine that a columnist waxes on and on about, no big deal. There are thousands of other stunning wines you can settle for and be happy with.
What I always instruct frustrated readers who write me is that they need to find a good wine shop. Atlanta has an embarrassingly large number of retailers with smart, resourceful sales associates trolling the aisles. If a wine I talk about is not available, I am positive these shops can find a suitable substitute. Do not think of my wine reviews as an endpoint, but as a guidepost to wines you find intriguing.
And let’s face it, just because a wine tickles my fancy, that does not guarantee you will care for it in the least. You are better off developing a dialogue with your wine retailer than with me. He or she can more immediately respond to what you liked and disliked about a type of wine I suggested and you purchased.
And just what do you mean by “not funny”?
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator with the Society of Wine Educators. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.