Long time no blogging! Those who noticed might have wondered what the silence was about.
First, they don’t call it the summer doldrums for nothing. Wine sales for First Vine slump in the summer and it doesn’t seem to matter how many posts or e-mails I do. Then there’s the sad fact that after (gulp) 10 years of putting thoughts about wine online, I find I’m developing a shorter and shorter attention span. Part of it is that my wine-related interests are deep rather than broad – and I don’t want to repeat myself on things I’ve written about. Then there’s the constant bombardment of non-wine news that has altered my brain in ways that make it more difficult to formulate clear and persuasive thoughts without wanting to scream and use obscenities.
But lately, something has broken through the fog and made me pay attention and is worth talking about. Even though it’s making business more difficult.
When I order wine from Europe, the shipper sends trucks to pick up wine from the producers. The pallets get consolidated with other suppliers’ wines in containers and then taken to ports and loaded on ships. The ships dock in New York or New Jersey. The shipping company sends containers to its deconsolidation warehouse, where the individual pallets are marked for trucking to importers. The shipping company hires various trucking companies to deliver the pallets. In the olden days 10 years ago, my pallets would be in DC within a week of docking.
But my first shipment this year took four weeks from docking until the wine arrived in DC because the shipping company had trouble scheduling a truck to take the wine down. Add to that similar trucking delays in France picking the wine up from my producers, and everything is taking twice as long as it used to from the time I ask the shipper to pick up the wines until they arrive.
I’d been reading about a truck driver shortage since early this year. And I had noticed in the past few years that delivery was taking longer than before, but I really hadn’t paid close attention. Now I am, though. Especially since another shipment of mine arrived in port two weeks ago, with no indication of when it will make it down to DC.
There’s a confluence of factors at work: more companies shipping more things to more people, relatively stagnant pay for truck drivers who work for large trucking companies (and consequently, fewer people taking the jobs), and rising fuel costs. The Post article I linked to indicates that in order to make more money, truck drivers have to form their own small companies and go out on their own. Some people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) are going even smaller – renting trucks and hiring themselves out for runs that provide them payment on delivery. It’s the Uber/Lyft model applied to moving goods. Typically, large trucking companies get paid days to weeks after a particular delivery gets made, not right away.
First Vine is small potatoes when it comes to trucking, and I never get a full truckload on those 52-foot trucks that are the most cost-effective. This means I’m counting on others in the greater DC area also getting deliveries of wine. Depending on the time of year, this can add a few days to the total time. But that delay is small compared to the time it takes just to line up a truck and driver.
So there are decisions to be made. Trucking from port to DC costs more than twice what it did 10 years ago. It would still cost more to hire a truck and driver myself (or perhaps with others in the area). But it would get here potentially three weeks sooner. I’m probably too late in the game this year to think about doing that, but it will definitely be a consideration next year. Or maybe I should just get a CDL, rent a truck, and do it myself. Who knows, maybe there’ll be First Vine Wine Imports and Trucking next year!
No recipe this week, but I’ll have one next time. I’m also getting wine from one new producer, plus new selections from old favorites. So lots to write about in the coming weeks!