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Wine Review: The internet has been good to wine enthusiasts

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“Can we talk?”

I have borrowed a famous opening line from the comedian Joan Rivers to bring up the subject of purchasing wine. In the way back, way back when, there were liquor stores – I hate that term – on almost every corner in the shopping district of every city and town where wine was sold. With the advent of supermarkets and the profitability gleaned from selling wines, these many small stores completely disappeared. Today, shopping for wines in stores has become almost an impulse buying experience in favor of, you guessed it, the internet.

The advent of online buying opened up an avenue for the purchase of every conceivable product ever known and the greatest boon to the wine industry ever before. It opened up the world to wines that were not available because of political, religious or local laws.

After the repeal of prohibition almost 86 years ago due to the huge public contempt for the law and the rise of bootlegging and the making of often deadly poisonous moonshine, Prohibition-minded legislators rammed through the restrictive three-tier system. The three-tier system dictates that the producer of an alcoholic beverage must sell only to a distributor, adding a layer of price increase, who can sell only to a retailer, which adds a third layer to the final price. This law was specifically written to force the price of wine and spirits as high as possible in an attempt to make them to expensive for the average citizen of the time.

This restrictive policy is still in effect, but there is more. Throughout this country there are some very small wineries producing excellent and in some cases award-winning wines whose production was too small to be of any interest or profitable for distributor.

These boutique wineries existed as part-time operations primarily drawing their sales from drive-by customers. Distributors were very selective in what or whose wines they represented. In lieu of this, a new industry was born. Online wine sellers offer many represented and unrepresented formerly unavailable foreign wines. There was also loosening of the laws that permitted wineries to sell from their property via shippers but as of yet not via the U.S. mail.

The internet and a loosening, but not eliminating, of the ability to ship wines via express companies has resulted in an explosion in the availability of wines from small, little known boutique wineries that were never before available off of the shelf and from companies offering many excellent but formerly not available here foreign wines.

A question now arises concerning the shipping of the wine via the express companies who are notorious for rough handling. There are now specially made boxes that cradle the wines in separate compartments that almost guarantee unbroken shipping. Some genius, who deserves a Nobel Prize, developed an air-filled individual bottle container than guarantees a successful shipment. Another innovation is the freezer bag: frozen packets that are filled with a material that will retain a lower temperature for a long period of timed making shipping during hot weather possible without “cooking the wine;” ergo, all shipping problems solved. I have to say that the advent of the internet was a great boon to wine drinkers.

There is one other thing that I constantly harp on: Never open a bottle of wine – white or red – the day you receive it and most specifically received from an express company. Red wines are notorious for getting a problem called “bottle sickness” which results from the shaking of the bottle on its way to your home. All wines should be allowed to rest after arriving, much like you have to rest after air travel. While white wines are usually exempt from bottle sickness, after the good deal of shaking during shipping, I would wait for a day or two before diving in.

Summing up this long-winded tirade, the world of wines has opened up wider than ever before to the benefit of the consumer.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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