The battle over whether consumers can order wine directly from wineries is moving to the halls of the U.S. Capitol. Members of Congress yesterday introduced a bill (HR 5034) that could end direct shipping of wine and other forms of alcohol in the United States, or at least put major roadblocks in front of lawsuits by consumers and wineries trying to reduce restrictions on direct shipping. Wine Spectator obtained a copy of a draft of the bill on Wednesday, which was crafted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). It would strengthen state governments' control of alcohol sales, allowing them to protect the three-tier system of distribution while putting a much greater burden on people challenging it.
Talk of a bill first surfaced when a Congressional subcommittee held a hearing with little notice on March 18. During the session, wholesalers and state regulators argued that the three-tier system is under attack and that the U.S. faces "an alcohol epidemic" if Congress does not intervene and prevent deregulation of alcohol sales. The hearing took many in the wine industry by surprise, and no winery-, retailer- or consumer-advocacy groups testified.
This is ridiculous. People who like wine like buying it directly from the winery when possible. They also like signing up for cellar clubs at their favorite wineries. Steering through the antiquated laws of individual states is difficult, if a winery wants to go through that effort they should be able to do so unfettered.
You know how I this law is complete and utter crap? Because the people who are behind it insist they are doing it "for the children". As soon as you see statements like this:
Erickson testified that as the U.K. deregulated between 1980 and 2007, "numerous nightlife centers sprung up … These became scenes of drunken debauchery, with people spilling out at closing time vomiting, urinating and passing out."
Yea, in the U.K. they are called football games, they are also called football games here in the states, but a different kind of football and most it takes place in Philadelphia ;).
Let's be clear: Wholesalers do not sell directly to consumers. They have no control over who buys the end product, so having a 3-tier system does nothing to protect against drunken debauchery or underage drinking.
Wine & Spirits Daily has posted a copy of the bill online (the version introduced into the House is not online yet, I'll let you know when it is).
This is a ridiculous bill, and it should be defeated.