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WSWA and the Pure Faith

belloq-and-bad-guys.jpgRene Belloq: You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.
Indiana Jones: Now you’re getting nasty.

For years, after the acquisition of our old company by Paterno Imports, I was obligated to attend the annual Wine and Spirits Wholesalers (WSWA) convention - an event that makes you feel like you need a bath if you’re in the fine wine business. It always reminded me of the scene above from Raiders of the Lost Ark because just attending the WSWA convention made you wonder if you were a Belloq or an Indiana Jones and when they included me as one of the boys it made me want to say, “now you’re getting nasty”. In fact, as you surveyed the bar in the convention hotel overrun with guys with gold chains and women in too tight, too short dresses it was hard to tell the difference between the conventioneers and the pimps and whores attending them.

The new product show is always a highlight of this event and it never, never features wine. For example, I remember the Jell-o shot years where one company hired “models” dressed as nurses in a porno movie to hand feed their new brand of Jell-o shots to conventioneers within inches of their well exposed breasts. Another famed booth offered “Black Death Vodka” in a stand featuring a real Indy Car, well associating drinking Vodka and driving at high speeds.

It is this orgy of sleaze and money, powered by spirits not wine, that drives the WSWA and it mass market distributor members who could give a sh*t about wine except for the fact that their giant spirit suppliers force them to sell it. 

In this context, the recent hopeful comments by writers like Tom Warkand Mary Baker  concerning the departure of CEO Jaunita Duggan seem all to optimistic. The departure of Duggan will mean nothing and as long as the engine that drives WSWA remains sprits they will continue to attack small wine producers with every weapon at their command. Duggan is not departing WSWA because of recent court decisions favoring small producers, but for bigger bucks somewhere else. Let’s face it, paper is a bigger industry than wine or spirits.

If you have any hope that the WSWA will see the light and become a friend of the small wine producer you only have to attend one of their conventions and your hopes will quickly be dashed. The fine wine people that live too long with the WSWA and the culture of large spirits distributors become Belloq, not Indiana Jones and we have little hope from them, after all, look who Belloq threw his cards in with.