QUESTION: Can you trust wine distributors or are they all driven by relationships with the winemakers?
No to both parts. Distributors are no different than any other aspect of business. There are ones to trust and ones that are only interested in selling their inventory. If you find a distributor whose wines you consistently like, then it may be likely you can trust them. Look to see if they carry the same wines you like every year. If so, support them the way you would any other business.
As to the second part, some distributors work with their winery suppliers trying to achieve a synergy of sorts. Others are interested in squeezing every last nickel out, urging wineries to increase production and the expense of quality. Usually these relationships cannot last as eventually there will be a less expensive “newer” wine coming along. - Loren Sonkin is an IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder/Winemaker at Sonkin Cellars
Wine distributors are, mostly, delivery companies. Some have very fine wines and offer more service to the wine trade. They have little impact on the consumer, other than the fact that most now are so big that they sell what they have most pressure to sell and many small wineries do not get distribution because they cannot get the attention of a distributor. The fine wine shop is trustworthy. A fine wine merchant prides himself in his ability to select great wines. The supermarket offers what is commercially driven. Trust your local wine shop. Wine importers are similar to wineries, they take pride in what they import, as a winemaker takes pride in what he makes. The one thing that is most relevant to the wine consumer, which makes wine distributors untrustworthy, is that many wine distributors are behind the laws which make it illegal to order wines directly from a winery or retailer. This is what every consumer must fight. Most wine distributors want a monopoly. - Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO of Broadbent Selections
To provide diverse, unbiased, and independent advice, Bartholomew and Loren answer all user submitted questions without consulting one another. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't. Always interesting though. Have a wine question for them? Submit it via our Contact Us form.