The Best Dressed, Wine-Drinking Crooks

winedressedIn 2010, important portions of the Massachusetts direct wine shipping law were ruled unconstitutional by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. This ruling along with various unworkable provision in the original law made the remaining portion of the wine shipping regulation unworkable. Massachusetts wine consumers had been left in the cold.

The first attempt to fix the faulty law failed when the bill meant to achieve this goal never got out of committee. Yesterday, in the Massachusetts Statehouse, a new bill meant to give Massachusetts’ wine drinkers access to wine shipping services was finally heard. Representative Ted Speliotis’ H.294 would, if passed, give Massachusetts wine drinkers the ability to have wine shipped to them from out-of-state wineries.


Perhaps the most interesting thing about these hearings was the fact that the only testimony in opposition to the bill was a somewhat half-hearted effort by the Massachusetts Package Store Association. This was contrasted by testimony given in favor of the bill by the American Wine Consumer Coalition, the California Wine Institute, the National Association of Wine Retailers and eight private consumers who came on their own to testifying in favor of the H294.

This is a first step. And it’s impossible to predict after this one hearing if MA wine drinkers will finally get what they have long been asking for—access to the broader American wine marketplace. However, it was a good first step for champions of consumer-rights and free trade. The next step will be to see if the Join Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure—where the bill was heard—will vote H294 out of committee to be considered by the entire legislature. Massachusetts will begin year two of a two-year session in January. The direct wine shipping bill has until the end of 2014 before it dies.

What can consumers do now, after this hearing is over, to move the process forward? Certainly MA residents should continue to contact members of the Consumer Protection Committee and ask them to support a comprehensive direct wine shipping bill. All members of the committee can be emailed by CLICKING HERE.

Very restrictive wine shipping law remain all across the country. Few states are as restrictive as Massachusetts. However, consider that while 40 states allow one form or another of winery to consumer shipping, 35 state outright ban the shipment of any imported wines into their state. And along with this ban on the shipment of any imported wines via ban on any shipments from out-of-state retailers, these states maintain bans on their residents from joining Wine-of-the-Month clubs, having gift baskets with shipped to them, having collectible and investment grade wines shipped to them from auction houses and bans on nearly all Kosher wines shipped into the state being as the vast majority of kosher wines are also imports.

My last night in Boston I had dinner with a number of very serious wine collectors. Throughout the meal the topic of conversation was how to break Massachusetts law and bring in wines against the state’s ban on consumers bringing wine in to the state that had not gone through its three-tier system first. It was fascinating. These were the best dressed, best drinking crooks I’d ever met.

The goal where Massachusetts is concerned is to turn these folks into law-abiding citizens.


5 Responses

  1. Mark - November 13, 2013

    Tom, Thanks for keeping MA Updated. You made some great points in your presentation. I would like to have seen the comments made by the MA Package Store Association. Do you have a link to it? Thanks

  2. Tom WARK - November 13, 2013

    I don’t believe the package store association testimony is available. Nor do I think the hearing was recorded. Cheers…

  3. tom merle - November 13, 2013

    Sad to say that Mass. ain’t about to be one of the few states that go beyond allowing only wineries to ship from out of state. Their natural and understandable inclination is to protect in-state businesses unless it can be demonstrated that the voters are getting royally screwed which is a hard case to make beyond the rhetoric. They will no doubt split the baby in half and allow producers in following the standard procedures.

    Hadn’t thought about the plight of importers and third party wine of the month clubs. All bootleggers like the fellas sitting around the table.

  4. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Treasury Bonds - November 14, 2013

    […] of the American Wine Consumer Coalition, Tom Wark testifies in Massachusetts. While in Boston, he also dined with the “Best Dressed” crooks he’s ever […]

  5. Kurt Burris - November 14, 2013

    One problem with defeating the restrictive shipping laws is that, like it or not, the wineries themselves are complicit in their continuation. The big multistate distributors, especially a Florida based distributor, are helping keep the three tier, restrictive laws in place. You have small and medium sized wineries, who have the most to gain (aside from the consumer of course) from unrestricted interstate commerce allowing these behemoths to represent their wine while these same companies are actively working against their “client” wineries interests.

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