As they are doing to many industries, supply chain delays and staffing shortages are affecting winemakers and wine distributors, and, as a result, local restaurants.
According to Marc Grimaud, the proprietor of Siesta Key's Café Gabbiano, wine prices are rising and need constant monitoring to keep them attractive. Shipping delays, especially with imports, are also causing backups—another real problem. Staff shortages are mostly seen in fewer truck drivers, which results in fewer trucks and missed orders. To combat this, restaurateurs like Grimaud have continued to sell wine directly to the public, and some even deliver—a trend that 11 states have adopted.
Marcello Aquino, the owner and chef of Sarasota's Marcello Ristorante Italiano, is dealing with similar issues, but has different ways of coping. As a high-end restaurant, he says his customers don’t balk at increased prices, but they do affect the availability of certain wines and ingredients; crab meat that costs $30 pound makes it impossible to serve, he says. He sells retail wine but does not promote it, and the shortage of truck drivers also means late or no deliveries for him.
The lack of delivery drivers is a national issue, driven in part by the consolidation of wine distributors nationwide, as well as wineries being sold to conglomerates. The move toward online ordering by consumers that kicked into high gear during the Covid-19 pandemic has also affected the efficiency of deliveries and forced salespeople to fill the gaps. Lastly, competition from other sources, such as Amazon, have enticed truck drivers to move into new careers.
Michael Klauber of Michael's on East says he is fortunate to have a substantial inventory of wine (more than 1,000 bottles), so wine supply issues are not a problem. He says staffing shortages are abating, and levels are near normal, although lunch service remains closed. In more positive news, Klauber says the currently strong dollar gives Americans an advantage when purchasing French wine.
Over at Mattison's, owner and chef Paul Mattison says he has had few problems with staff shortages or inflation, but supply chain issues have also affected glass manufacturers that produce wine bottles. Prices are also up, but he says wine events (such as the one below) help his bottom line and attract new customers.
Upcoming Wine Events
Daou Vineyward & Winery Dinner at Mattison’s Forty-One, 7275 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18. The event includes five courses with matching wines. $125 per person. For a reservation, call (941) 921-3400.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.