CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When it comes to finding that special wine you've been looking for, we've come a long way, baby!
I am old enough to remember a time when searching for a good bottle of wine in West-By-Golly was an exercise in futility and frustration. That was back when the only place to purchase wine was the state ABCC store, where the choices were extremely limited.
This was due in large measure to our small population, our redneck stereotype and the inescapable fact that West Virginia was last in U.S. per capita consumption of wine. Heck, our consumption of buttermilk exceeded that of wine back before Elvis died.
In fact, of all the inhabited land on the planet, only citizens of Borneo and Canada's Northwest Territories consumed less wine than West Virginians. And Borneo has more reptiles than people, while the few inhabitants of the Northwest Territories prefer Yukon Jack to the fruit of the vine.
Back in the day, the shelves of those ABCC stores were filled with Mateus Rose, Hearty Burgundy or Carlo Rossi Paisano. Unfortunately, these humble, but sound, wines had to compete for shelf space with the more popular Thunderbird, MD 20/20 (Mad Dog), Wild Irish Rose or other high-alcohol wine-like beverages better suited for consumption under a bridge than at the dinner table.
Fortunately for us Mountaineers, our state Legislature modernized our laws about 30 years ago allowing for wine sales in grocery stores and wine specialty shops. In addition, we are also permitted to purchase wines online and have them shipped to us. All in all, while our per capita consumption is still relatively low, we now have access to just about any wine that strikes our fancy.
And when you examine worldwide statistics on wine consumption, the U.S. is surprisingly ranked behind 50 other countries. Lithuania, Cyprus, Madagascar and Slovenia and a whole host of European countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany all consume more wine than we do here in America.