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What’s The Deal with Wine Shipping Laws?


March 21, 2014 Blog » Wine News & Entertainment » What’s The Deal with Wine Shipping Laws?

Ever read about a wine and you can’t find it anywhere? You might be getting subjected to archaic state laws. Find out what’s happening with wine shipping and how this system is about to get upgraded.

It is illegal to send wine across state lines, even if it’s to your grandmother.

How do you buy wine? It seems reasonable that if you like to shop online that you should be able to buy wine online too. Unfortunately, many state laws are archaic and align to the ideologies of Prohibition, which ended almost a century ago. To make matters worse, many of the restrictions hurt American wineries more than imports. Let’s take a look at how wine shipping laws affect you and what you can do to help change the rules. Don’t throw in the towel yet, there’s hope!

Get to the bottom of Wine Shipping

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The red states do not allow wine shipments. Image from freethegrapes.org

There 10 states that flat out don’t allow wine to be shipped directly to you (or make it so difficult that shipping carriers simply refuse to deliver). What this image doesn’t show you is that there are several states with additional rules and fees, making it hard for small wineries to deliver their wines to you. Let’s look at some of the details on the archaic laws of wine shipping:

  • If you live in Alabama you have to get special prior written approval from the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and prepay for deliveries.
  • If you live in Utah you’re a criminal (who could face felony charges) if you bring more than 2 bottles of wine home from your travels.
  • If you live in Arizona or New Mexico you can only receive 2 cases of wine annually… that’s only one bottle every two weeks!
  • If you live in Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, wineries must buy a yearly permit just to ship to you.
  • If you live in New Jersey large wineries (over 250,000 gallons) can’t ship you wine. No Gallo
  • If you live in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska or Maryland you can pretty much get whatever you want, as long as they can get it to you.

 

Maryland just passed a law in 2011 to legalize direct shipments of wine.

If you thought that this was bad enough, it gets worse

Many states have liquor control boards that forbid or restrict retailers to offer anything but what the state brings in. Middleman wholesalers have become monopolies in these states and the only wines you can buy are the wines they carry. Thus, wine buying becomes a pain point for many people who just don’t have access to selection — or feel awkward when they walk into a state-run liquor store.
 
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Many shippers don’t mess with wine shipments because of the risk of felony charges of transporting wine through Utah

Utah ruins it for the rest of us

Since carrying wine in Utah is a felony, wines traveling through the state on the I-80 from California to New York must use secure bonded shipments (which means the freight is essentially sealed). Many shippers don’t mess with the red tape, making it harder and more expensive to ship wine across country.

Only 17% of US wineries have national distribution


There’s Hope for Wine Shipping Laws

There is a piece of legislation that might help, it’s called the Model Direct Shipping Bill. It’s been supported by the US Supreme Court, the Federal Trade Commission and many state legislators. It could actually change the fate of wine in your state, but it has to be put into action in your state’s legislation. While it still costs wineries money and the permits into the state, it provides a fair share (up to 24 cases) of wine to be shipped directly to you per year. And, of course, the bill requires shipments be labeled properly for the use of adults over 21.

How to get involved

If you want to change the fate of your state (come on Utah!), you and your friends can write your local member of Congress. With enough positive pressure, even old institutions can change.

You can find more information on wine related legislative action at wineamerica.org and on freethegrapes.org


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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards. Find me at @WineFolly