The average wine drinker runs into a number of problems when stepping out to pick-up a bottle of wine, not the least of which is describing the kind of wine he or she prefers. It’s like having to walk into a museum and describe your preference for art in order to actually get in to see any. For a lot of people, you only know once you have seen the art, or once you have tasted the wine. Cellar masters have been mulling this over for years: wouldn’t it be a lot easier on wine buyers if they could taste the wine before buying it? Washington State is now proposing a law that would allow major grocery retailers to do just that: give out 2 oz. beer and wine samples to shoppers.
While that’s great news for wine enthusiasts eager to try new things without having to risk spending ten dollars or more on an entire bottle, the fact that Washington state is the first to take a stab at the concept has some political repercussions. Grocery stores would indeed have a method in place to ensure customers couldn’t take advantage of the sampling feature, and while I don’t think anyone will be getting inebriated on 2oz of wine, the state legislature is notoriously inept when it comes to writing tough DUI laws. The apparent lack of willingness to make strong decisions regarding drinking and driving in the state is causing the sampling concept to come under extreme fire.
It would be a shame if the wine sampling privilege was lost to political problems the legislature is having in other arenas, particularly if it would hamper the effort of your local wine shop to offer the same service. It’s already begun in one or two wine cellars in the country – a shop in California offers samples of fifteen different wines each week for a couple bucks a pop. Buyers then get to taste new releases and featured recommendations for a fraction of the price.
Naturally, with such a privilege comes great responsibility. Cellar masters, grocery store managers and consumers would have to initiate the appropriate checks to ensure the system was safe from manipulation. With these in place, the benefits for the wine shopper would be tremendous: just because you wrote down a wine of the week or a recommendation from the Wall Street Journal’s wine team doesn’t mean it will suit your wine tastes. Samples give you the power to decide if it’s a good fit before you spend that money.