La Palazetta Rosso di Montalcino 2009
Domaine de la Chevalerie (the best producer in Bourgueil)

Maine Wine Industry Update (We have it pretty good in Maine)

Sometimes I tell people that in Maine we're so far behind the curve that we end up ahead of it; like with local food and farmers markets.  In other states with big dense populations super markets totally replaced farmers markets and put a lot of family farms out of business.  In Maine we have such a low population density that in a lot of places the big super markets didn't move in, preserving the farm to table connections that were there.  Now we're reaping the benefits with delicious local pork, greens, squash, you name it.

Wine in Maine is in a similar situation.  Yes, sometimes our helpful state legislators make laws like David Webster of Freeport's protecting impressionable children from seeing adults responsibly tasting wine.  Doing shots at a restaurant bar was ok, tasting wine was a no no; it might turn them communist?  His excuse?  He thought it would be selectively enforced, which of couse makes it all fine.  Maine's, ehem, eccentric legal environment for alcohol has helped to keep large corporate behemoths out.  In recent years the rest of the country has seen a consolidation in the wine business.  Huge companies such as Southern Wine and Spirits have the deep pockets to pay off restaurant owners and give kick backs to control what gets sold.  Luckily, Maine is too small and weird a market for them to bother with us!

Maine is one of the only states that has bucked this trend and seen a lot of diversification and proliferation in small, grass roots wine distributors.  Wine distributors such as myself, SoPo, Crush, and Easterly have built businesses built on unique quality wines and passion.  Mark-ups in Maine are also lower than in places like NY, both on restaurant lists and retail.

I have a feeling that this movement to higher quality, exciting, hand made wines has hit a critical mass.  There are enough of us passionate wine professionals and excited open minded consumers like you that Maine is starting to attract national attention as a great market for exciting, unique wines.  Most of the top importers in the country; the ones that really generate excitement and are sought after, are working in Maine now and sending their national sales people here to promote their wines.

My reaction: it's about damn time!  When I first started 8 years ago people couldn't even get their heads around the fact that I was independant from the big beer distributors.  Dry French Rose was still a rarity.  The times have changed and I predict that change will continue to speed up. 

To that effect I am re-focusing on doing more exciting educational events.  I'm planning more wine dinners, wine classes, and getting my hands on crazy extremely limited wines.  A couple weeks ago I held a private vertical tasting of a Cru beaujolais vineyard.  I had 4 vintages of Christian Bernard Fleurie that we tasted side by side; the 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009.  All the vintages tasted totally different!  It was a revelation; and this from an appellation that most people would never think to age!  (the Rosemont Mothership, RSVP, and the Freeport Cheese and Wine shop each have a few bottles of the older vintages and they're under $20)

I am planning on teaching a wine class specifically on ageing wine.  I've actually been in this business long enough to have built up multi-vintage verticals of a bunch of exciting wines.  More info on this soon. 

Devenish Wines has also moved into a new larger warehouse space to make room for all the new French, Italian, and Oregon wines that are comning!

The new, larger Devenish Wines warehouse!

So in conclusion we have an amazing selection of wines in Maine.  Yes, there are some high end cult wines that you can't get, but I have news for you, you generally can't get them anywhere.  My Domaine de Bel Air 2003 organic Bourgueil, though?  You can only get that in Manhattan and here in Maine!  Check it out for $15 at the Rosemonts, or the Cheese Iron, or Provisions.

Perfectly mature loire Cabernet Franc, Organic, and only available in Maine and Manhattan.

You ain't seen nothin' yet!




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Joe Appel

Great insights, Ned. We shouldn't at all take for granted what we've all worked for in this state, food- and wine-wise. Keep on keepin' on.

John Mosser

Just in Maine, nice place ti visit was noted how hard it was to get wine in area shops. Our friends own a winery in Michigan and we saw a couple of Michigan Wines on the store shelves. They do have Dist. Ability How do they get wine to a Dist. in Maine?

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