Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wine distributors choose Sarah Palin

In case you didn't have enough reasons to hate wine and spirits distributors, try this: For their 2010 convention, they chose Sarah Palin as keynote speaker.

You couldn't ask for a more clear statement on where the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) stand politically. This is the organization that fights actual free enterprise -- in the form of direct shipping -- at every opportunity, and they use social conservatives as their foot soldiers.

What better way to get Palin's angry, unwashed fans to support the WSWA in their ongoing fight to keep big business big, and prevent small wineries from getting their product to wine lovers?

Actually, though, I think this is a good thing for wine lovers. Here's why.

Few people in the wine industry except Tom Wark have the courage to criticize WSWA. The distributors are just too powerful to irritate, and they don't even have to take action to destroy a brand.

All Southern Wine & Spirits needs to use is inaction: its portfolio is so large that if its salespeople don't carry samples of a certain brand out to retailers, sales will plummet without anyone really knowing why.

This is why wine lovers should fight the three-tier system. In a state like California, where wineries can sell directly to stores without a middleman, we enjoy fantastic wine selections even at tiny local shops. But in most states, where wines must go through a distributor because of state law, WSWA members act like funnels with sticky sides that attract $100 bills. Distributors winnow the tens of thousands of wines available in this country to just a few hundred that they favor, often because they're getting a legal kickback for selling it.

Whenever a state legislature considers modernizing the system to allow free enterprise, though, the WSWA claims teenagers will order wine over the Internet, get drunk, have sex, and become pregnant. You might think I'm exaggerating, but that's an actual ad campaign the WSWA ran against direct wine shipping in the Northeast U.S.

Doesn't that campaign sound exactly like the sort of thing Sarah Palin would say? She's a natural for this job!

The average citizen doesn't really understand three-tier distribution -- hell, the average wine geek doesn't understand it -- so it's hard to get emotional about it.

But those of us with an IQ over 100 understand Sarah Palin. We know where she stands, and it's not with us, unless we're standing on a publicly funded Bridge to Nowhere holding a shotgun and looking at Russia.

So let's do all we can to publicize the connection. The WSWA hearts Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin speaks for wine distributors. If you like Sarah Palin, you'll love the WSWA. But if you don't, maybe you need to look at the company she's keeping.


Anonymous said...


Nice of you to put a target on my back. Wait....I did that, didn't I.

WSWA and their members actually are among the primary opponents of free trade. They support the kind of regulations that would make the old Soviet economic planners blush.

They want state governments to FORCE all sales of alcohol to go through a wholesalser, whether the wholesaler is needed or wanted or not. More the point, they support economic regulations that give wholesalers complete say over what products are available.

Their campaign donations go equally to dems and republicans. And Dems and Republicans take them, equally.

The sale of wine and the ability to keep in out of the hands of minors would both be increased significantly if the wholesalers did not have total control of the drinks marketplace.

What does Sarah Palin have to do with this? I have no idea. But it is comical.

Tom Wark...

Anonymous said...

There is certainly something comical about Palin, but I am increasingly disturbed by WSWA's decision. I understand Palin's view of the world about as much as I understand that of Islamic Extremists. However, I recognize that she is charismatic to a socially conservative base that lives in the blue states.

She's a polarizing figure and I expect her billing at WSWA to undermine any hope of a reconciliation of views between wineries and wholesalers. In a time of extreme polarization in Washington DC, it looks like the differences in the liquor industry are to become equally polarized. Maybe that's what WSWA needs to defend the 3 tier system, but it doesn't bode well for solutions that support the whole trade.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should have said "socially conservative base that lives in the red states.