15 August 2005

The Woes of a Tennessee Wine Drinker

As I might be getting some traffic this week from the Wine Blogging Wednesday, I thought I might expound a bit on what it means to be a wine drinker in Tennessee, specifically the Memphis area. Some of this I covered before, but I'll expound on the issue:

  • I can't buy wine anywhere other than a wine/liquor store or an in-state vineyard. I can't order it online or through the mail, and I sure as hell can't get it in a supermarket. Some of the purists amongst you might find this a silent blessing, but there are many liquor stores that are horrible places to buy wine--a five year old Yellowtail merlot will sit on the shelf slowly oxidizing and waiting for the first unsuspecting customer. There are some good wine-focused shops, but you really have to get in good with the local "wine underground" to know where to go and who to talk to. I've been very fortunate to have good friends and connections in this regard.

  • In line with the above, all wine in this state has to go through a distributor. Individuals or store owners can't order wine directly from the producer. This may change due to the recent Supreme Court ruling, but I doubt it--if anything, our wine laws will probably get more strict. I'm good friends with some distributors, but at the same time, the system is rough if you want to try something from a vineyard that isn't popular locally. Of course, I can ask any of those distributors to order a case for me as a favor, but I'm not a teenager passing a handful of bills to a homeless guy with strict instructions to pick up a dry, claret-style young Bordeaux.

  • Though I enjoyed getting decent wines from grocery stores in Europe when I was 19 and on a few subsequent trips, it was only recently that I discovered that much of the nation is able to buy booze at the supermarket. I am 28.

  • I can't purchase wine after eleven at night, before ten in the morning, or on Sunday at all. I can get wine at pretty much any hour from a restaurant (though our local wine taxes border on criminal--a glass of the cheapest, crappiest table wine will set you back at least five or six bucks, enough to buy an entire magnum retail).

  • Beer's a bit different, but like I said before, you can't get it in a liquor store unless it's a "big beer". In theory you can buy beer in supermarkets or convenience stores 24/7, but in reality it's illegal to buy it between two and eight a.m., or noon on Sunday, something like that. This generally isn't a problem, but I discovered once after an 18-hour shift at work that I couldn't get a cold one at the 24-hour grocery store. Damn the state government!

  • Outside of the "wine underground", wine drinking in this town seems to be considered a women's thing, and then only within the bounds of white zin and affiliated sweet wines. I've actually known guys who loved wine in private who wouldn't dare drink it in public. I've made some converts through my dinner parties, but it's a hard sell in this part of the world. I try to tell them that the goddamned Vikings drank wine out of the skulls of their enemies, but somehow it's still an effeminate beverage.

  • Given the strict regulations regarding wine and stronger beverages, it is inevitable that homegrown solutions would emerge over the years. I'm proud to say that I've had many fine homebrewed beers. And I've had one or two hombrewed wines that weren't terrible. And I've had some moonshine and affiliated beverages that could strip the paint off a boat--viscous, evil liquids that I'd really rather forget.


Meg said...

I stumbled upon your blog today, a day that I am sitting in Nashville cussing our state because I'm out of wine and my friend forgot to get a bottle for our dinner this evening. It is Sunday so I'm out of luck. Nothing spoils a dinner like no wine.

Jenny said...

I grew up in Tennessee and have lived here all my life. I remember being seventeen and going to California on vacation. I was blown away by all the wine in the grocery store. I had no idea such a thing was even possible. Looks like we are going to have to wait a lot longer to get that privilege in Tennessee

Anonymous said...

I'm from California, right outside the Napa Valley in Sonoma County. Buying wine is as easy as buying a Coke out there. I never knew how good Californians had it until I moved here. I don't drink much at all but sometimes the mood will hit me and I want to drink a bottle with my wife. Unfortunately it's usually on a Sunday. But because the government here likes to pass laws based on false religious beliefs, I have to go without. That is not fair at all that I am being forced to observe a religious based law.