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06.30.2006

At Least You Don't Live in Russia

Sometimes when American kids complain about the smallest things, parents say "at least you don't live in [insert downtrodden, usually African country here]." Because really, most of the time, none of us really bother to think about how well off we are, especially compared with the rest of the world.

Now, when wine lovers complain about the fact that they can't get their favorite bottles shipped from California to Illinois, we can say "At least you don't live in Russia."

Thanks to the bumbling bureaucracy of the Russian government and trade ministries, wine is nearly totally absent from shelves in stores across the country. The reason? A set of new regulations that sound like something out of a Thomas Heller's Catch-22:

All imported wines sold in the country must have an excise stamp, which gets changed every year.
All wines that have not been sold from the previous year must have their old stamps replaced by new stamps.
The deadline for excise stamp compliance is tomorrow, the first of July.
The stamps were not made available until a few weeks ago.
And, by the way, the only people who can put the stamps on are the importers. NOT the retailers.

"The entire wine trade in the country is paralyzed" says one insider, as retailers are being forced to yank their wines off the shelves and send them back to the importer for stamping leaving Russian wine lovers without their own cellars high and dry.

Apparently the stamps are normally supposed to come out 6 months in advance of the deadline, but you know how governments work....

Raise a glass this weekend (again) in solidarity with your Russian wine drinking friends. They need all the spiritual support they can get.

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