Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maryland Wine Bill Passes

Consumers and wine drinkers in Maryland are celebrating the beginning of the end of archaic rules which prohibited legal access to over 95 percent of the wines available in the United States.  The Maryland Legislature, as reported late Friday, passed the long awaited direct wine shipping bill, which while imperfect, will finally allow at least direct shipment of wine from wineries to consumers in the state.

I am excited that my favorite wineries--Keswick in Virginia and Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Valley, California, can finally ship my wines direct to me; but there is still more to do. I still cannot join a retail wine of the month club, nor have wines shipped from retailers.

Why is it important to have wines shipped from retailers?

First, consider this interesting fact that was reported in The Standard Times on November 26, 2005: 95 percent of all wine purchased is consumed within 48 hours.

So, clearly, the idea of ordering wine for expediency or probably even reduced cost is not a factor for direct shipping. It is an issue of access to product. Some wineries do not sell all of their wines on the retail market. I know this for a fact from visiting so many wineries across the United States.

Wine, however, is a world-wide product. Direct shipping of wine from wineries is great for US wine--but how about the South African, or Australian, or you the name it country wines that are not carried by Maryland retailers? I want to support the local retailer, believe me. But the tiered system in Maryland does them a disservice as well and they cannot carry all of the wine available and cannot order the wines I often ask them about.

We, the consumers, should have access to all of the wines available without unreasonable red tape and confusing rules. As I travel the country, I often find wines that I enjoy and want to buy in Maryland. In fact, favorite Chris' Merlot, the Hart & McGarry, is not available in Maryland. That is why we need direct shipping to include the ability to receive wine from retailers.

Retailers in the state feel threatened--but they should see direct shipping as an opportunity--they would be allowed to ship out of state. This then gives them access to compete on a bigger market--especially if they offer a unique or not widely available wine.

Remember, we are looking at 5 percent of the total wine sales here--and there is a good chance the retailers won't even notice the 5 percent because it is possible much of that is already making its way into the state via other means.

And so, I will tip a glass of wine tonight to celebrate success--but continue to push for complete access to the wine available in the world.

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