Is There a Wine Distribution Mafia?
Just look at this statement from Illinois’s Fox Creek Winery president Gordon Schnepper found in an article by Mary McGlasson in the Olney Daily Mail
“The very simple understanding, I think, is
that during Prohibition, the people that made real money were
distributors or rum runners, and once it became legal, these guys
didn’t just quit and go home – they bought licenses,” Schnepper said.
“And they’re still fighting to protect their territory.”
I guess the gloves are off.
The battle in Illinois is over the ability of Illinois wineries to continue to sell their wines to consumers in the state and across the country. Illinois’s booze middle men have introduced a bill (HB4350) to essentially forbid any such direct sales and force wineries to sell to distributors who then sell to retailers who then sell to you.
You can see why Mr. Schnepper might feel it necessary to start talking in high toned rhetoric that tries to get to the heart of the matter for those listening and following this debate.
And how far off the mark is Mr. Schnepper? Back in the day of Prohibition rum runners and the mob controlled the booze trade. They controlled in not just by force, but by buying protection. Simply, they paid off cops and political officials to look the other way while they amassed power and wealth.
Today, the middle men in Illinois, the distributors, have a near monopoly on sales of alcohol. And, it’s STATE-mandated. They essentially get their "cut" of nearly every once of booze that is sold in the state. The exception is wine from state wineries who for many years have been able to sell their wine directly to Illinois residents. In addition, wineries in a select few other states have, through "reciprocal agreements" with Illinois, have been able to sell wine directly to Illinois residents. Now, the middle men want to control this part of the market too.
They are doing it the same way the old gangsters did it: through payoffs. The beer and wine trade associations have given millions of dollars to state politicians over the years in an attempt to protect and sustain a corrupt and unnecessary "three tier system" of alcohol distribution that the wholesalers use to protect themselves from competition.