I feel like one of the judges for American Idol. It seems that every three or four hours I get a call from someone wanting to bring new Italian wines into the market. And while I am not anti-immigration regarding Italian wine, I think someone should stop booking ships to the New World filled with the hopes of Italian winemakers, hoping we will bring them out of their funk.
Today I read it in our papers, finally. America is now officially going through our own “malaise”. Recession has arrived; the cost of war is depleting our resources and the hopefulness of our population. The middle classes and below are being downsized into smaller pieces of the American Pie. Only the 1%’ers can ponder their new Bentleys or their $500 bottles of Barolo. And still, folks call, wanting to send more Chianti, more Prosecco, more Pinot Grigio.
I told one contender today, “I don’t pull the trigger. I'm just one of many who ride the wild horses around the square, in our daily Palio.”
Let me put it this way. It’s not just about price. Or margin. I really can’t bear to hear one more comment about how high the distributor’s margins are when most of the importers are 6-10% higher. My friend Sam Levitas has this mantra. It goes like this: “You don’t take margins to the bank, you take dollars.” Anybody listening, importers, retailers, restaurateurs?
The next great idea probably isn’t going to be an Italian Yellow Tail or Two Buck Chuck. Or a celebrity label, or one from a "famous restaurant". I might be wrong, but looking back over my wine label graveyard collection, there are a lot of "great ideas" that never made it. Why? Because there are no short cuts. It's very simple: It isn't easy.
Let me ask you, if there are any winemakers, importers, brokers, retailers, restaurateurs or just plain folk who like to eat and drink: What do you prefer, a chain restaurant or a small place where the proprietor greets you at the door with a smile and an honest, simple, fairly priced menu and wine list? Where do you prefer to buy wine, at a supermarket where you now check yourself out, or at a quirky little store where the owner spent several years in Gascony or Greve fiddling around learning about wine and culture and then bringing that passion back home to share with his friends and clients?
Why would it be any different with new wines? Do we really need another tired concept? How about getting on your own horse and battling it out around the piazza with the rest of us? Maybe fall and get scraped and drag yourself back up, and stay in the race? Or how about just getting in the game, in the mud and the rain and the slop of the daily slog, from walking on all fours towards an eventual upright position? And then to have to carry a shield and a sword and battle some more? That is the state of our union.
There is plenty of work, and more wines than we can say grace over, already. We need some fresh meat in the trenches, throwing punches and winning a few battles. We don’t need anymore armchair generals with self-proclaimed great ideas that will never win a skirmish. Does anybody hear me?
We don’t need any more wine – we need boots on the ground – selling what has already made it through the gates – they need a home before we can send anymore ships loaded with wine and hope, over here.