LETTER- Whiny distributors harm customers

What low self esteem Virginia's distributors seem to have. The scare tactic claim that distributors will be forced out of business [February 9 mailbag: "Wine story one-sided"] unless the government guarantees their market ignores the economic reality of the wine business.

Most winegrowers and winemakers do not have the time or budget to personally sell and market their wine to each consumer. They turn to distributors out of economic necessity, without a government mandated three-tier system.

Conversely, few wine retailers have the staff or infrastructure to deal with hundreds of individual wine producers that fill their shelves. Retailers limit their number of vendors to a relatively small group of reliable salespeople from whom many wines are readily available.

However, both wineries and retailers should have the freedom to choose.

A Charlottesville winery, for example, should be free to both sell wine directly to the restaurants on the Downtown Mall, with whom they have both familiarity and proximity, but also choose to use a distributor to sell their wines in Richmond, Washington, or Texas.

The retailer should be free to both guarantee a reliable supply of wines by dealing with wholesalers, as well as to seek out small or distant producers whose products his customers demand.

Indeed, it is the customer who benefits most when wineries, retailers, and restaurants have the freedom to directly pursue great wines, wherever they're made.

Almost all wineries will need distributors in areas where it is either too costly or cumbersome to sell wine directly. But rather than welcoming this economic paradise, distributors shamefully lobby our elected representatives because they fear competition.

The Commonwealth of Virginia should support courageous business people who appreciate the opportunity of open markets rather than the cowards who seek protection from them.

Christian Cox
Fort Worth, Texas
UVA Law 2002