Something Sneaky Happened On the Way to Direct Wine Shipping in Massachusetts

sneakySomething interesting happened on the way to direct shipping in Massachusetts. And no one knows who is responsible for it…..Riiiiiiight!!!

Here’s what happened. The new direct shipping law in Massachusetts that lets consumers have American (but not French, Italian or any other foreign wines) shipped to them from out-of-state was put into the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which passed. Shipping (from wineries, not retailers) will commence in early 2015.

However, somehow the budget bill that also held the direct shipping bill had a provision snuck into it that revoked he right of Massachusetts farm wineries and cideries to self-distribute (go around the wholesaler and sell direct to retailers and restaurants). This was a privilege that the state’s wineries and cideries had possessed for a number of years.

According to the Sun Chronicle: “State Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, said someone slipped the provision into the budget without most legislators knowing about it. No one seems to be taking credit for it, he said….There is a suspicion that there is a special interest at work, but rank and file lawmakers are not being told who, he said. The whole way the provision was slipped into the budget has been a mystery, he said.”

Let’s ask, who benefits from this bit of legislative chicanery. If a winery or cidery may no longer sell directly to retailers and restaurants, what must they do? Well, they would be required to sell their wines to…..wait for it….a wholesaler, who would then sell to the retailers and restaurants. Being forced to sell to a wholesaler rather than directly to the restaurant or retailer would reduce the margins of wineries and cideries by 30%….at least.

But…“No one seems to be taking credit for it, he said….There is a suspicion that there is a special interest at work.”


Who could the special interests have been that worked to screw Massachusetts wineries and cideries?

The issue of self distribution was never debated in 2014 in Massachusetts. Whether wineries or cideries should be allowed to continued to sell direct to retailers was never at issue. Yet somehow some special interest was able to convince some member of the Massachusetts legislature to slip in this devastating provision under cover of darkness. That’s despicable.

The Massachusetts Legislature fixd the problem in an Informal Session on December 31, and assuring that the state’s cideries and wineries will continue to be able to sell direct to restaurants or retailers in the New Year.

However, the fact that this kind of underhanded action could have ever taken place with the consent of a member of the Massachusetts Legislature is exactly what makes people skeptical of government and the kind of thing that makes people despise the wholesale tier.


9 Responses

  1. larry Dutra - January 2, 2015

    um, doesn’t this violate Granholm?

  2. Tom Wark - January 2, 2015

    The way they fixed it was by allowing any winery to ship up to 250 cases a month direct to retailers and restaurants.

  3. Michaela Rodeno - January 2, 2015

    Keep up the good work, Tom. I doubt the sneaky people who tried to pull this fast one will be deterred, but being caught — especially if/when the perps are identified — might make them think twice next time.

  4. David Vergari - January 2, 2015

    What??? You’re alleging that wholesalers engaged in underhanded, sleazy, behind-the-scenes manipulation. Well, I for one, am SHOCKED. Who knew?

    Their motives were pure (greed). Anyone out there who thinks that wholesalers won’t resort to any means necessary in order to protect their franchise still believes in the Tooth Fairy.

  5. Chris Johnston - January 3, 2015

    It is a very well known fact that all of these inter-state direct to consumer or direct to trade regulations are managed by the liquor distribution lobby. The politicians are all very, very well compensated by these “special” interests. For that reason, they have very little interest in changing things that could potentially negatively impact their paymasters.

    Of course, in every one of these arguments you hear “It’s to protect the children”.

    I am very happy to hear that the winemakers and cideries, meaderies and whoever else fought to get this onerous rule cut out of the law in MA prevailed.

  6. Massachusetts Accidentally Deletes State Law Allowing Farm Wineries to Self Distribute | On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog - January 5, 2015

    […] cideries should be allowed to continued to sell direct to retailers was never at issue.” See Something Sneaky Happened On the Way to Direct Wine Shipping in Massachusetts. Mr. Wark reasons that “special interest” played a part in the removal of a provision […]

  7. Jim Wallace - January 5, 2015

    Thing haven’t changed much since the days Jerry Mead fought this skullduggery tooth and nail. Big wholesalers continue to buy politicians through political contributions and their will be done.

  8. Bill Haydon - January 6, 2015

    So Cali now has direct to trade privileges in Boston, and it’s going to fail just like it’s failed in Chicago where it’s been legal for several years. It’s a completely unworkable model from a logistics to a sales management to a customer service standpoint.

    The Napa fetish for DTT is based on a myth: the myth prevalent in the Napa bubble that people are so desperate for and worshipful of their product that they’ll jump through all kinds of extra hoops, hassles and even cost to get it–and to cut out the companies with whom they may have worked with for years in order to be “closer” to the Ubergods of Napa. Reality is far from it, and DTT will come to have the exact same market impact in Boston that it has come to have in Chicago–ZERO. Gotterdammerung is the inevitable outcome to Napa’s hubris in this area.

  9. Truth - January 11, 2015

    The curse of the martignetti family continues.

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