Wine sales in N.Y. supermarkets? The idea doesn’t go down smoothly

Here in New York, we can’t just go to the supermarket to pick up a bottle of wine, as folks can in 35 other states. That’s because wine sales are permitted only in liquor stores, and the owners of those stores – 2,754 of them in New York -- have fought off attempts to encroach on their businesses for three decades. Now the idea has come up again. Gov. David Patterson has called for the change in his 2010-11 budget proposal, saying it could bring in significant revenue for the state, and the battle is raging once more. Below, I offer a possible solution.

But first, it’s worth noting that a Siena College poll this week found that 58 percent of New Yorkers support supermarket wine sales, while 39 percent oppose it. The liquor-store lobby says the proposal will put 1,000 stores out of business and eliminate many more jobs, while supporters say it will lead to significant economic development by expanding wine sales, creating jobs in New York’s wine industry (few people realize that it ranks third in production after California and Washington), and by helping the state’s vintners better compete with wineries from other states  and countries.

Here in New York City, at least, wines from New York, whether from Long Island, the Finger Lakes, the Niagara Escarpment or the Hudson Valley are, on the whole, poorly represented in liquor stores. Retailers will tell you that there just isn’t the demand for them. It’s no wonder when you look at the domination by California and European wines.

So how about this? Perhaps one way of satisfying both sides in the dispute is to set an inventory requirement for New York wines in supermarkets of,  say, 15 or 20 percent. This would give the state’s wineries more exposure to consumers and might lessen the perceived damage to liquor stores, many of which all but ignore New York wines in the first pl ace. What do you think? Should New Yorkers be able to buy their wines in supermarkets? Please leave your comments below.

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