Florida: The Whorehouse of Wine Laws
$1,400,000. This is the price that Florida legislators are willing to take in order to allow wine wholesalers in that state to bend over and have at Florida’s wine lovers.
Over the past five years, the Florida alcohol wholesalers have contributed more than $1.4 Million to Florida legislators.
What does that buy? Besides politicians, it purchases a restriction that will prevent Florida consumers from purchasing wines directly from some of America’s largest wineries. If you ask me, that a piss poor return on $1.4 million. However, Florida legislators yesterday voted down an amendment to a bill that would have removed a restriction on a wine law that prevents wineries producing more than 250,000 gallons of wine from shipping directly to Florida residents.
Nevertheless, if you are a Floridian and you belong to the wine clubs of Robert Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, Bonny Doon, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood, Joseph Phelps, Beaulieu, Benziger, Bogle, Domain Chandon, Cline, Dry Creek Vineyards, Franciscan, Ironstone, Kunde Estate, Louis Martini, Merryvale, Montevina, Murphy Goode, Niebaum-Coppola Estate, Ravenswood, Renwood, Rodney Strong, St. Francis, Simi, Trefethen, Wente and others, it’s likely that you will soon have to give up your membership in these clubs.
I always like to look at the public reasoning for wanting to impose restrictions. In the case of restricting Floridians from purchasing wines from wineries that make more than 250,000 gallons of wine (roughly 100,000 cases), the reasoning is that if these large wineries are able to ship direct to Floridians, it will run Florida retailers out of business.
This is, of course, nuts. But worse than that, everyone making this argument knows it’s nuts.
Years ago when the direct shipping battles first emerged, Florida was the epicenter. They passed a law that would make it a felony for out-of-state wineries to ship into the state. I remember being at a meeting of Family Winemakers of California at which they took a vote as to whether or not to start a boycott of wine sales to the state. The organization turned down the idea by only 2 votes.
Nothing like that will happen this time around. However, it’s likely that someone will challenge the notion that a state can restrict shipping to consumers based on the size of the winery. That challenge may in fact happen in another state. This restriction is being instituted in other states as well as Florida. Florida has become high profile because it is a huge market for wine.
In the mean time, Florida’s politicians will continue to allow wholesalers and the state’s retailers to bend over their constituents and give it to them in order to keep getting "campaign contributions" from the wine wholesaler lobby. It’s a business transaction without which politicians don’t know how to function.