Florida’s “Twilight Zone” Wine Laws.

I’ve recently come across one of the most bizarre suggestions yet as relates to the issue of shipping wine directly to consumers.

In Florida, the state Senate is looking to formalize their decision to allow direct shipping of wine to its residents. As expected wine wholesalers and their friends in the Senate are attempting to put restrictions on the legislation that amount to a "Wholesaler Protection Act." The current idea is to limit the wineries that can ship to residents to only those that make less than 250,000 gallons of wine per year, or about 100,000 cases of wine annually.

Wholesalers across the country are trying to put these kind of limits on direct shipping legislation. Why? Because they can? The presumption is that the wholesalers feel by keeping large production wineries out of the direct shipping market they will protect their cash flow, something that comes primarily from their distribution contracts with larger wineries.

But then you’ve got Florida State Senator Steve Geller, who is backing restrictions on direct shipping by large wineries. What is his rationale? Wait for it:

"No one is going to be buying bottles of $100 wine through the mail
but they may be ordering a case of $8.99 bottles," he said.

If these State Senators only read wine blogs they’d realize that the chances of a minor buying wine over the Internet and having it delivered to their house is pretty small. But I don’t think they even believe it, to be honest. It’s just the most obvious argument they can make as they try to protect  their campaign contributors’ businesses. They simply can’t believe what they are saying.

The problem is that these kind of restrictions are most certainly going to be challenged in court, as they should be. So, they are already looking for a way to prevent larger wineries from shipping without undermining constitutional requirements that restrictions on alcohol sales be applied fairly. Guess what they came up with?

"One solution would be to attach the 250,000-gallon limit to
specific labels, not a manufacturer. So a Kendall-Jackson "boutique"
variety not readily available in Florida could still be sold.

   "That seems to be a logical conclusion," said Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville."

What’s not being said here is that the Kendall Jackson label would be prevented from direct shipping. One presumes the Phelps Insignia would be prevented. One also presumes that While Mondavi wines would be prevented from being shipped, the Opus One wine would be OK to ship.

This is nothing more than a Twilight Zone proposal that would be stopped in its tracks before you couls say "legal challenge".

Who wants to start a pool on how long it would take Mr. Jess Jackson to dispatch lawyers to Florida if the legislature there prevented the Kendall Jackson label from being distributed direct to consumers while it was OK for his "Matanzas Creek" label to be distributed? I’m taking the 10 minute and 15 minute squares.

One Response

  1. Zinman - March 28, 2006

    That’s a doosey of a proposal. Impossible to enforce and clearly unconstitutional, it can’t help but be the favorite of Florida distributors.
    When are the distributors going to figure out that they can no longer win this war? The voters are riled up and all that cash, while still accepted by the legislators, doesn’t buy real votes.
    Once the voters start faxing and e-mailing the will to stand up and be counted on the side of distributors fades, and the desire to be reelected kicks in.
    You will still see distributors get a few wins, but they won’t be permanent and they will come at a very high cost.
    It seems the best strategy for distributors would be to give the direct shipping forces what they want but to let the burdens that normally fall on distributors in terms of credit, taxation and legality fall on the retailers when they do buy direct.
    Thats a position that distributors could win without denying anyone the right to sell wine.

Leave a Reply