Battling Money with Ideas in the Wine Wars

The battled over the direct shipment of wine in Michigan has shifted, for the summer, from the Michigan legislature, to the public space where some very interesting comments and actions are being undertaken.

The battle over who can ship to consumers in Michigan was begun after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s discriminatory law that allowed Michigan wineries to ship to Michigan residents but forbid out of state wineries to do the same.

In a bit of candor, the PR person for the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, the organization leading the charge to kill the Michigan wine industry by stopping Michigan’s direct shipment of wine, nearly came out and said that a strategy of buying the legislator is the best for opponents of wine and direct shipping.

Bill Nowling, who is director of client services for the Rossman Group and the PR Firm hired by the wholesalers, reacted to the overwhelmingly negative response the wholesalers have received in the press with this comment:

"This is not an issue that we’re going to win on the editorial pages. But it’s an issue where we have a considerable amount of impact, in the one-on-one lobbying,”

"One-on-One" lobbing means out of the view of the public, for anyone who is wondering. It is also code for, "how much can we give you in your next campaign." It is no secret that the wholesalers are cashing in their chits in this battle. The Wholesalers are among the most prolific campaign contributors in Michigan. They are calling on legislators and asking for a return on their investment.

Meanwhile, supporters of the direct shipment of wine, mainly small family-owned wineries in Michigan have begun a drive to get the word out to their customers as they come through their tasting room doors, arming them with packets of information on how to contact legislators and support the right of wineries to sell to consumers and free trade.

Posted In: Shipping Wine


One Response

  1. Joel - August 9, 2005

    In the same issue of Crain’s Detroit Business linked above, they became the 13th publication to editorialize in favor of Michigan direct-ship. “Let Wine Shipments Flow,” to use their words.
    NO publication has yet come down on the side of the shipping ban. Then again, editors aren’t in need of campagaign contributions to run for office.
    Meanwhile, it’s become public knowledge that the wholesalers have written their members statewide to approach the sheriffs in each county to organize underage Internet stings, similar to the one that fizzled so badly in Lansing. Like anyone addicted to alcohol, guess they figure the next bottle HAS to bring better results than the last one.
    So while they may no longer be looking to the editorial pages for support, it’s pretty clear that they’d still like a nice “minors and booze” story featured on Page 1.

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