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June 6, 2013 at 6:09 AM

How to get around higher costs after liquor privitization

Photo from Tribune Media Services

Photo from Tribune Media Services

In response to my blog on the one-year anniversary of liquor privatization in Washington, Seattle musician, electrician and photographer Jef Jaisun offers a consumer’s perspective on the new system. Here is a condensed version of his letter:

“I still don’t buy liquor here. I bring back top-rated tequilas from Mexico at 1/4 the cost by checking a padded wine shipper box as my second piece of ‘luggage.’ I fill it with good wines on the way down so I don’t have to drink bad, overpriced Mexican and Chilean plonk while I’m there, then refill it with great tequila at peso pricing for the flight back. On road trips I hit the duty-free shop at the Canadian border: $34 for a liter of Glenfiddich 12 Year, vs. $64 for a .750 in Washington.”

My column quoted an observer of the wine industry lamenting how much shelf space at the supermarket that wine has lost to spirits, reducing the choice among wines. Writes Jaisun:

“I’m not buying into the wine whine… It’s ludicrous to bemoan the ‘squeeze’ on wine’s footprint when the foot itself is now four times the size it used to be. The distributors we love to hate are largely responsible for what we see on the shelves. They broker the deals with
the Gallos, the Ste. Michelles, the Diageos and Constellations… sucking up shelf space to peddle the cheap plonk that still dominates here. That doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want at Esquin, McCarthy & Schiering, or Wine World, or via mailing list services like Full Pull

“Washington vintners themselves don’t get a free pass, either. First of all, there are upwards of 800 wineries in the state now. You’d have to have a pretty decent sized shop just to rack one varietal from each of them. So imagine how impossible it is to carry five or six from each producer. Secondly (and this is a long-standing gripe of mine), the insanely high prices some of these ‘boutique’ wines carry necessarily excludes them from most retailers’ shelves. It’s one thing for me to stop into a tasting room and drop $50 on a limited release reserve cab, but in a retail store? Never…”

Comments | Topics: liquor privatization

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