I have a love / hate relationship with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (the state-run monopoly that controls the sale and distribution of alcohol in PA). And by that I mean that I love to hate the PLCB. This admission is what we in the world of pseudo-journalism call “appropriate disclosure.” In other words, what you are about to read is entirely opinionated—and therefore, I hope, both entertaining and educational.
For those of you who live in an area of the world where you are free to purchase any wine that you want directly from wineries and other retailers who are competing for your business and therefore motivated to provide you the best possible service at the lowest price – well, just bear in mind this is not a situation to which we Pennsylvanians are accustomed. No, we are accustomed to driving over the borders to Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey—in the Land of Wine-Shopping Freedom.
This story also can’t unfold properly until you realize that PA’s state government is vying against California for the title of “Most Broken Legislature in the U.S.” – it’s September and our lawmakers in Harrisburg have yet to pass a budget, which has left a yawning chasm of a deficit unfilled and was, until recently, threatening to shut down essential services in some minor cities with potentially embarrassing news-coverage potential (maybe you’ve heard of Philadelphia?).
Van Osdol: “Any concerns about the perception that might be created from something like this?”
Conti: “As I said, of course, we’re concerned about the perception. We understand the nature of your question and we understand why you’re here today, but we think we—in an abundance of caution—went through a very fair and open bidding process.”
Van Osdol: “Was it really fair if there was only one company that responded, and that company was the one that made the original proposal?”
Conti: “It was a very fair and open bidding process.”
PA politics at its finest!
The irony of PA state residents footing the bill for this type of program—which provides (at best) marginal benefit to the state’s wine consumers while helping to perpetuate the state’s monopoly position in wine distribution and therefore bolsters continuing higher prices, limited selection, and decreasing incentive to improve service—well, it’s not lost on all of us, is it?
For those of you who live in an area of the world where you are free to purchase any wine that you want directly: welcome to my world, Pennsylvania. Thanks for letting me vend. Er, uh, vent.
— Joe Roberts is a Certified Specialist of Wine and can be found regularly roasting wine’s sacred cows (and pairing them with a robust red) at 1WineDude.com.