PA Wine Lovers Bent Over–Over Direct Shipping of Wine

Bent"Pennsylvania residents could have a little more liquor freedom, but only if they prefer American wine over the French, German or Australian varieties….'The people of Pennsylvania are really getting less than what they should be getting,” Farnese said, adding that 90 percent of the world’s wine would not be shipped under the proposal.' "

To put this another way, The Pennsylvania Senate passed out a direct shipping bill that would bar Pennsylvanians from having wine shipped to them from any out of state wine retailers, be they internet-based or brick and mortar. In additions, wine lovers in the Keystone state will be barred from having wine shipped to them from out-of-state auction houses and wine clubs not affiliated with wineries if the bill passes through the house and is signed by the Governor.

The original bill would have allowed local wine lovers to buy and have wine shipped to them from both out of state wineries and wine stores. So what happened?

"State Sen. John Pippy, R-Allegheny, said many would have preferred a broader bill, but the final product was the result of political realities after significant resistance from special interests and lobbyists defending the current liquor system."

Let me translate that for you: Pennsylvania wholesalers lobbied hard to deny the state wine lovers the ability to purchase wine from out of state wine stores in order to protect themselves from competition. It's an old story that, as always, demonstrates that wholesalers fear competition. Consumer be damned.

Of course the notion that wholesalers were "defending the current liquor system" is absurd. Surely if the current system can withstand wineries shipping to Pennsylvania wine lovers, it can withstand retailers from out of state shipping to local wine lovers. What happened here was lawmakers in Pennsylvania gave into their desire to continue receiving campaign contributions rather than doing the right thing and creating a real consumer-based market for fine wine via direct shipping.

The Pennsylvania state stores, where local wine lovers will continue to purchase all their imported wines (Only retailers in America sell imported wines—and they can't ship under this direct shipping bill), have in inventory on a minuscule percentage of the imported wines available in the United States. And so, Pennsylvanians will have access to only a minuscule percentage of the imported wines they would otherwise if they were able to purchase from out-of-state retailers. But rest assured, Pennsylvania wholesalers will be free from having to compete in a real marketplace.

I believe three things about American wine wholesalers and Pennsylvania wholesalers in particular:

1. They fear competition because they know they they don't have the business chops to compete on a level playing field.

2. They no nothing about and care nothing for American wine consumers or their needs.

3. The only thing that is standing in the way of Pennsylvanians and Americans in general of accessing more than the minuscule number of wines made available via winery direct shipping is the wholesalers' stranglehold on lawmakers that live and die by cash, not any arguments wholesalers put forth concerning retailer wine shipping.

Senator Pippy went on to say: "Don’t take this for granted. This is a significant step forward for wine consumers in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Pippy, who has taken just under $10,000 from wholesalers since 2008, is wrong. It's a significant slap in the face to consumers in Pennsylvania, an unconstitutional form of discrimination, and new form of protection for wholesalers who have concluded they and too incompetent to compete on a level playing field.


7 Responses

  1. Larry Chandler - April 2, 2012

    At least it’s some progress. Pennsylvania used to stop residents from heading over the river to buy wines in New Jersey (maybe they still do). So it’s not everything, but how many states now allow out-of-state retailers to ship wines to their residents?
    Pennsylvania has been backward for many years. This is a victory for wine lovers, if only a partial one for the moment.

  2. James McCann - April 2, 2012

    Where did you get your information? The wholesalers do not defend the current system, and have been spending their dollars to privatize the entire system.
    As for the chances of the bill passing the House and being signed by the Governor, that’s not going to happen. This bill is DOA.

  3. Tom Wark - April 2, 2012

    My information comes from the horses’ mouths. They wholeheartedly came out against retailer shipping in the bill. And no, it may not pass, primarily because it will be held up in the house by lawmakers that want to attach direct shipping to a privatization bill. Nevertheless, we get one more example of how wholesalers disrespect the consumer.

  4. James McCann - April 2, 2012

    They called you to tell you they were against it? Which wholesalers? No one has been quoted here locally, so I’m still perplexed as to why the wholesalers contacted you, when you are not exactly their favorite.

  5. brad wilson - April 3, 2012

    guess what, some on-line retailers ship to
    pennsylvania … thank goodness.

  6. Tom - April 3, 2012

    It seems in almost every case where a state opens up to direct shipping, retailers get excluded as a “compromise” in order to get the bills through. And, sadly, even staunch consumer advocates hail the crippled bills as “progress,” but what happens is that the legislatures can say they’ve addressed the issue and any hope of including retailers in direct shipping gets pushed off into some nebulous future.
    As for who is the against retailers shipping into states, well, duh…it wouldn’t be consumers. Legislators at least pretend to be neutral, certainly at first (until their contributors remind them not to be). That leaves the wholesalers and retailers to object. Retailers are less organized, partly because there are a whole lot more of them than wholesalers.

  7. Mark - April 23, 2012

    Tom-Exactly right, the compromise we’ve seen a ton of late is that wineries can ship, out of state retailers cannot.
    Personally, I think it is pretty clear that they are afraid of the competition.
    At the end of the day it doesn’t make PA any closer to allowing me to find customers than it is today.

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