The 6 Key Rights Wine Consumers Demand
The report issued today by the American Wine Consumer Coalition outlined which states best serve and least serve their wine consumers. “Consuming Concerns: The 2013 State-By-State Report Card on Consumer Access to Wine” graded all the states and DC on the degree to which they have enacted laws and regulations that support the interests of wine consumers.
Key to this important report are the 6 pillars of wine consumers’ interests in today’s economy that the report looked at. Why are these pillars of wine consumer interests important? Here’s why:
Without the legal means to purchase and have wine shipped directly from the winery, consumers simply don’t have access to anything other than a tiny portion of the wines produced in the United States. Most states mandate that all wines arriving in a state from a winery or importer must be brought in only by a state-licensed middleman wholesaler and that a state’s wine stores and grocery stores only purchase their wine inventory from these same wholesalers. However, there are no requirements that these wholesalers represent any winery that desires to see its wines sold in the state. As a result, a state’s retail wine shops have access to only a tiny percentage of the wines available from the 7,000+ wineries in the United States since wholesalers tend only to represent a very small number of wine brands. By allowing consumers to purchase and have shipped directly to them wines from in-state and out-of-state wineries, the state provides wine consumers with access to nearly any domestic wine they desire. Without this privilege, wine consumers are stuck purchasing what wholesalers bring into the state and see their selection severely diminished.
Imported wines (French, German, Italian, Australian, etc) are only sold by retailers. As a result, consumers can only obtain imported wines from wine stores in the United States. Yet, in most states, wine retailers are restricted to only purchasing their wines from in-state wholesalers. If those wholesalers do not represent an imported wine brand, then retailers and their consumers may not purchase them. However, the imported wine a consumer might want is highly likely to be available from one or more retailers in other states. It’s for this reason that allowing direct to consumer shipment from out-of-state retailers to consumers is critical to consumer access to wine. Additionally, only a few retailers nationwide specialize in rare and hard-to-find wines, making it doubly important to wine lovers that they have access to the out-of-state wine retail marketplace.
GROCERY STORE WINE SALES
A number of states still prohibit the sale of wine in grocery and food stores where consumers purchase food. This type of restriction, kept in place primarily to protect liquor stores and wine retail stores from competition, represent considerable inconvenience for consumers who, if they want to purchase a bottle of wine to go with the meal they are preparing, must make another stop, wasting time, energy, and fuel.
SUNDAY SALES OF WINE
Though rarer than it once was, a selection of states and localities still impose prohibitions on purchasing wine and other forms of alcohol on Sunday. This kind of “Blue Law” serves no legitimate purpose other than local tradition, imposing personal religious values on an entire community. It is an arbitrarily imposed inconvenience to which wine consumers ought not be subjected.
Many states still make it illegal for a wine lover to bring a bottle from their own collection into a restaurant to enjoy with their meal. While a number of states serve their consumers well by allowing this practice and allowing restaurants to charge a “corkage fee” to patrons with their own wine, too many states still allow restrictions without any reasonable justification.
STATE MONOPOLY ON WINE SALES
Two states still take responsibility for being the retailer of wine. By doing so they deprive wine consumers of the benefits of a free market in wine sales that not only tends to reduce the price of wine, but also results in far greater selection and choice for the consumer.
Tom Wark is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Wine Consumer Coalition