• The writer is an Advanced Sommelier and a Master Sommelier Candidate in the Court of Master Sommeliers program. He has been a sommelier, wine consultant and educator in the Hamptons and Manhattan for more than a decade. He wrote this commentary for Hamptons.com (from which I excerpted it and added some much-needed punctuation the website editors skipped).
By Christopher S. MIller
SOUTHAMPTON, Long Island, NY — Since the recession really got rolling, I have seen a dramatic impact on the wine industry. The industry continues to expand its reach and market size, but that increase has been at the expense of higher priced wines that have languished at many levels of the industry — languished on wine lists, on store shelves, in distributors’ warehouses and at the wineries themselves. But, the reality is that the wine industry has grown into a very large and important industry with about $30 billion in annual revenues in this country and about $151 billion worldwide.
New York contributes substantially to the U.S. economy, but New York’s wine revenues have tightened up recently, and I’d like to see that change.
I feel that laws (both local and national) are conspiring against New York having its share of wine revenues, and, yes, more wine revenues means more taxes collected to run the state. As a wine journalist, I have observed the wine industry for almost a decade, but as a wine professional I have seen the workings of the industry from positions held in restaurants, stores and distributors for more than two decades. What I have witnessed since 2005 is the migration of wine sales to other states that enjoy different laws concerning pricing and distribution
As a sommelier and wine director, I have also noted many more people bringing their own wines to restaurants and paying the corkage fee; with my sommelier or wine director hat on, this is an issue, and means less revenues for the restaurant and their staffs, this is also a loss of tax revenue for the state.
Corkage fees at restaurants are in the $30 range, give or take, and during the height of the recession some restaurants waived the corkage fee. While I agree (with) and partake in the corkage concept, there must be a balance that allows the whole system to thrive — meaning bring a bottle, buy a bottle and, even more importantly, follow some etiquette rules. Always call the restaurant to check on the policy, always bring a wine that is special, and never bring a bottle that the restaurant has on their list.
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