It seems that no matter where you are in this country, you can always find a dusty, tired, sad, dark, cold wine shop, that is run by a crusty guy that laments on how much better things used to be. As much as the economy hasn't been all that great as of late (you may have heard this), every indicator suggests that the wine industry is very healthy, specifically in the consumer sales growth department. Some speculate that fine wines (over $20 retail) sales, growth has eclipsed 10% for more than 12 out of the last 13 years.
So why do so many veterans think the wine industry used to be so much better? The easy answer is-It's changed, and they haven't. There was a time, not that long ago, when big corporations would send a peon into their local wine shop (the aforementioned dirty dusty archetype of what a wine shop was perceived to have been) to purchase a dozen cases of overpriced, brand name Napa Cab for their 100 or so best clients. They did this a couple times a year, and was repeated by many companies. Imagine how easy those sales were. No inventorying, just clearing at a 30% markup. Thank you and thank you. This was enough business to sustain the other 10 or so months of the year when business came in the door in a trickle. Frankly, the buyers at these shops didn't feel obligated to be all that nice to the novice wine buyers that require a lot of attention for a 1 or 2 bottle purchase.
Flash Forward 10 years, what has changed? The expense accounts have disappeared and the wine buying public has been replaced by the 25-34 demographic. They grew up in the age of Urban Outfitters and The Gap. They like bright eyed wine shop owners with ample lighting and clean shelves. They also like knowledgeable friendly wine shops that have enthusiasm and patience. If they aren't catering to the novice and hosting great in-store tastings, they're just waiting to go extinct, like the gaudy expense accounts that their business was based on.