Since the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Granholm v. Heald, direct shipment of wine to consumers has become a reality in many states.
There are lots of wine drinkers who believe that Granholm legalized direct shipping, but this isn’t the case. What the Supremes said in Granholm was that if a state allowed wineries within its borders to ship their products, it had to permit out-of-state wineries to do the same.
Recently, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would change all that. HR 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Effectiveness Act of 2010, would put decisions about interstate shipping firmly in the hands of the states. If this bill becomes law, the likely result would be the end of direct shipping from wineries to consumers. It would have a catastrophic effect on many of America’s small artisan wineries, who rely on these shipments for survival and would probably go out of business.
Opposing the bill are the Wine Institute, Family Wineries of California, Distilled Spirits Council of America, Brewers Association…you get the picture. The folks supporting it are large wholesalers, who are have also made substantial contributions to the campaigns of the Congressmen who favor the bill.
What’s really going on here? Supporters of HR 5034 contend that it would be helpful in curbing underage drinking, since teens would no longer have access to mail-order booze. Anyone familiar with teenage behavior knows that they have a penchant for instant gratification and the attention span of a gnat. Rather than order wine online and wait 3-5 days to receive it, they’re far more likely to steal it from their parents’ liquor cabinet or get someone else to buy it for them.
Wine collectors often assume that large wholesalers are on a mission to stop them from ordering directly from wineries. The more likely possibility is that these distributors want to stop large retailers, liquor chains Costco or Walmart from cutting their own deals with wineries and having the product delivered at bargain prices. Collectors, I suspect, are merely collateral damage.
Readers seeking more information should read HR 5034: An Analysis, on www.palatepress.com. Those looking to voice objections to the bill can join the Facebook page Stop HR 5034, or check out Free the Grapes (www.freethegrapes.org).