Behold…The Rational Wine Consumer

grocerystorewineIn March, after a multi-year political battle, the Governor of Texas did not sign a law allowing sales of wine in grocery stores. Instead he signed a bill allowing cities and counties to vote on whether to sell wine in grocery stores.

In June campaigns in a number of Tennessee cities began to gather signatures to put the question of whether wine should be sold in grocery stores there on the November ballot.

Yesterday, after only three months, it was announced that enough signatures had been gathered in 80 cities to put the wine in grocery store question on the November ballot.

I have a feeling that after the votes in these 80 cities are counted after the November elections it will become clear that a much more efficient remedy to this question would have been to either 1) simply pass a law allowing grocery store sales of wine everywhere or 2) have a state-wide vote on the question.

In the end, consumers always prove they want rational convenience, even where alcohol is concerned.

Remarkably, there are still 11 states where wine may not be sold in grocery stores. These 11 include New York. There a coalition of retailers has beaten back commonsense attempts to change that law by claiming grocery store sales of wine will put them out of business. This despite the fact that laws proposing grocery store wine sales have also included proposals to allow the ownership of more than one liquor store…currently the law.

Every plea you see in any state to keep wine out of grocery store sales is a slap in the face to consumers and a protectionist bid. Nothing less, nothing more.

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12 Responses

  1. Carl - September 4, 2014

    Other than New York, we have never lived in a state that didn’t allow sales in grocery or convenient stores. I don’t find any advantage in this. Can’t remember buying wine any place except in wine and liquor retail outlets and online. This reason is not just the predictable selection in other markets, but the manner in which they are retailed; standing up in a warm or even hot environment. In small grocers and convenient stores I see the same bottles of the shelf for months, even years!

  2. Tom WARK - September 4, 2014

    What a shame. That’s not my experience. I’ve witnessed a number if really outstanding grocery store wine departments, bothe large and small and in a number of states.

  3. Scott - September 6, 2014

    Tom, since I live in Tennessee, I can tell you that the effort to put wine in grocery stores here has nothing to do with any populist groundswell from the general public and everything to do with the big-box national grocers and the money they are able to bring to bear with our state legislature. Putting aside the question of whether wine should or should not be made more available in more venues, the laws here have been the same since Prohibition ended. During all that time until now, there was no hue and cry from the public over this issue. What changed? The ascendency of huge national retail grocery chains and their increased ability to use their money to influence governments to their advantage. A few hundred single-location mom-and-pop liquor and wine retailers were simply outgunned in terms of money and influence by Kroger, Target, and Wal-Mart. You’re rooting for Goliath against David.

  4. Tom wark - September 7, 2014


    I’m with the consumer, not anyone else. It’s about convenience and access in the same way direct shipping was and is about convenience and access.


    • Scott - September 7, 2014

      Well then, you couldn’t have chosen a more perfect photo for this post. Cupcake and other corporate factory-made “wines” will soon be all any of us will be able to easily find in TN once grocery chains and American convenience kills off most retailers who specialize in a real and varied selection of wines from around the world.

      • Tom Wark - September 7, 2014

        It’s hard to understand how specialty wine stores have survived in state after state where consumers can also buy wine in grocery stores.

  5. Mark Lee - September 8, 2014

    Over the last 20 years large grocery stores in Germany such as Edema and discounters (Aldi’s and Lidl) have significantly expanded their wine offerings. During that same period, 85% of independent wine stores in Germany have closed. Where I live, a metropolitan area of 200,000 plus people, there are only two specialty wine stores.

    • Scott - September 8, 2014

      Thanks for that testimonial, Mark. The same thing has happened in Australia, where the two major chain grocers (Coles and Woolworths) have tied up the majority of retail wine sales, choked out the independents, and then stopped representing wines from suppliers who don’t sell high volumes in their stores or refuse to play the how-low-can-you-go pricing strategy. The same phenomenon is about to happen in Tennessee. Mr. Wark keeps up his argument that states with wine in grocery also have independent specialty wine stores. This is true. But instead of there being several or many in a given market and at least one in every neighborhood, there ends up being only one or two (even in fairly large cities). Just because there are still pandas in zoos doesn’t mean they’re not endangered, and just because there are still independent specialty wine shops doesn’t mean that forces are aligning to make them extinct.

      • Scott - September 8, 2014


  6. Mike - September 8, 2014

    Well, here in the good old “wide open state of Florida”, where you can find wine in/on every corner gas station, grocery, convenience, chain and big box store, there are plenty of the smaller independent retailers. Shoot, within a 3 mile radius of my house I can think of 5 of them. No problemo

  7. Scott - September 8, 2014


    Congratulations on living somewhere in Florida where there are 5 (!) good independent wine stores within 3 miles of each other. Hopefully, they have good representations of wines from Burgundy, Piedmont, Alsace, Mosel, and Barossa. They should. In travelling extensively through most parts of Florida visiting wine retailers, I found that outside a very small number of good wine shops in Miami, most independent Florida retailers concentrate their efforts on lottery tickets, Swisher Sweets, Smirnoff Lemon Sorbet Flavored Vodka, and 1.5L’s of Barefoot.

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