Illinois Wineries Swing For the Fences in Shipping Battle
The Illinois Wine & Grape Growers Association are fighting back.
House Bill 4444 has been introduced into the Illinois Legislature as a response to the wine Wholesaler’s self serving bill (HB4350). In addition, meetings have been held by the various parties involved that have been characterized in their initial outset as " very unproductive" but later got back on track.
The Wineries’ HB4444 was introduced by Rep Mike Bost. The proposed law is not merely a response to the Wholesaler’s bill, it is an assault upon it. HB4444 would increase the amount a winery could sell directly to a consumer from 2 cases per year to 36 cases per year. The bill also increase by a factor of five the amount of wine an Illinois winery may sell directly to a retailer. And, HB 4444 would double the amount of wine an Illinois winery is allowed to produced.
The truly progressive element of the wineries sponsored bill is that it apparently extends both the direct-to-consumer and direct-to-retailer sales provisions to out of state wineries.
Christina Andrew-Heller of Illinois’ Lynfred Estate told FERMENTATION that the Illinois wine industry is gearing up to fight the battle with all it’s got.
"The Illinois Winemakers and Grapegrowers Association is going to fight this battle on all fronts: in the media, with consumers and in the legislature," she said. "Already, calls have gone out to State representatives as well as the media."
Ms. Andrew-Heller continued, "We saw how they fought the same battle in Michigan just last year. They used all their resources and so will we. This is really an attack on Illinois wineries with no justification."
Earlier this week many of the parties involved sat down to discuss the issue. In an interview with FERMENTATION, Rep. Lou Lang, the main sponsor of the Wholesalers bill said initially the conversation did not go well.
"When I walked into the meeting between the two sides it was clear it was going in the wrong direction," Lang said. "I stepped in and told them they needed to start at the end, not the beginning. They need to explain what each of them needs in the end."
Lang stated that his goal was not to pass HB4350 in its current form. "I always believed that this bill would be and would have to be changed in negotiations. And that’s exactly what is happening now," Lang said.
The various representatives from the wholesalers and the wineries will be meeting again next week to continue their negotiations on the future of wine sales in Michigan.
One thing is clear from talking to both Representative Lang and State Senator Ira Silverstein, the Chief sponsor of the wholesalers bill in the Illinois Senate. It appears that the anti-shipping HB4350 was introduced with little consideration of the issues involved. No one we spoke with was aware of the recent "Costco" ruling in WA State that called unconstitutional the practice of allowing in-state wineries to sell directly to wineries while prohibiting the same type of sale by out-of-state wineries. Also, Both Lang and Silverstein assumed that stopping minors access to alcohol via the Internet was an important issue.