By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor
For our next guest commentary in this series, we wanted to turn to the retail side of wine. Daniel Posner is very well known in the world of high-end wine and online wine discussion. He's not afraid to speak forcefully — and occasionally controversially.
He's the owner of Grapes The Wine Company in White Plains, New York and his daily wine deal email is a popular list to be on. And, he runs WineTalk.com, a growing discussion board that focuses on wine in all of its forms.
And you'll see, Daniel carries some New York wine… but not much. (We recently noticed he had Hermann J. Wiemer on his daily email offer, for example.) Some will argue he doesn't carry enough, but others will say that Posner carries what he can sell, and New York wine needs a better image to make it in a store like his.
We don't agree with all of his perspectives, but we find his views to be helpful in clarifying what a high-end retailer thinks of New York state wines. Now, our questions in bold and his answers follow.
In your estimation, what is the most significant factor holding New York wines back right now?
First, you have to have great quality. Unfortunately, there are many less-than-average wines being produced in New York. In particular, Long Island.
There is no business strategy that works best for every winery, but do you feel that New York wines need to see greater distribution?
I think New York State wineries need to attack their market in their backyard first. Many wineries self-distribute, yet they never show retailers/restaurants the wines to see if the store or restaurant wants to purchase them. Others use wholesalers. Needless to say, NYS wines are not really the focal point of wholesalers in the market.
Do you carry New York state wines in your store? If so, how many? If not, why not?
Yes, we usually have 1-2 wines. Always from the Finger Lakes. I have tasted some Long Island wines that were decent — Macari and Pellegrini come to mind — but I was never floored from a "value" standpoint, to put the wines in the shelf.
There are some who feel that New York's historical focus on hybrids and other non-vinifera grapes and wines is a problem. Do you agree? Why or why not?
What is a hybrid? Seriously, I am not sure why a big deal is made about hybrid wines, etc. These regions should to make the best wine possible in their region. That is why it is important for the Finger Lakes to play to their strengths with riesling and gewurz, while Long Island should concentrate on whatever their best grapes are.
If New York wines can be branded with one idea or theme in mind, what would you prefer that to be? For example, in Napa, cab is king. In Willamette, the almost-singular emphasis is on new world pinot noir.
The Finger Lakes needs to concentrate on Alsatian varietals. They make good wines up there at very affordable prices. I am not sure what Long Island or the Hudson Valley should concentrate on. I do know that Long Island should stop producing chardonnay, as I have never had a good one.
How else do you see New York wines gaining respect and market strength in the future?
By offering free trips to the Hamptons to well respected wine critics, in trades for high scores. I am kidding. I think the regions need to concentrate on their strengths first. On Long Island, if that is cabernet franc, then go with it. In the Finger Lakes, it is fairly obvious what it is. Then, they need to get these wines into retailer's hands, who in turn need to get the wines into the hands of consumers.