Wine Shippers Are Duping “Unsuspecting Consumers”
Any list of experts on the claims made by American wine wholesalers over the past 20 years concerning wine shipping would have to include me near the top of that list. So, make of it what you will when I tell you that the anti-wine shipping middlemen wholesalers have come up with a brand new claim about the problems with interstate wine shipments.
In a press release congratulating themselves on some lobbying they did 20 years ago, the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA) claim that those wine lovers who actively seek out online wine vendors that sell the wine they want, who then voluntarily purchase that wine online, who then instruct the online wine seller to ship the wine to them, and who then open their doors and sign for the wine they bought are in fact the “UNSUSPECTING CUSTOMERS” of bad actors.
It’s a bit like claiming that the person who opens their door for the Uber Eats delivery driver bring the food they ordered are the unsuspecting victim of restaurants.
The wholesalers’ arguments that are deployed in an attempt to force wine consumers to rely only on the crappy selection of wines they sell to retailers evolve over time. They used to claim that minors will die at the hands of interstate shipments of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. That didn’t happen. They claimed that interstate shipments of wines from California would put wineries and retailers out of business. That didn’t happen. They claimed that interstate shipment of wine from out-of-state wineries and retailers would deprive the states of tax revenue. That didn’t happen either.
Today, in addition to claiming that “unsuspecting customers” are being duped into paying for and receiving wines from out-of-state retailers that the consumers sought out, they are also now claiming that interstate wine shipments from out-of-state “endanger public health and safety.” This claim too showed up in WSWA’s most recent press release celebrating their involvement in successfully convincing Congress to create a new law enforcement mechanism that has been used exactly twice in the twenty years since Congress adopted the wholesalers’ whining pleas for protection from competition.
American wine wholesalers and their allies have been pushing this claim wine shipping will “endanger public health and safety” for exactly 16 months. It was in June 2019 that the U.S. Supreme Court alerted lawmakers that in order to discriminate against interstate commerce, states had to show with concrete evidence that there were demonstrable health and safety concerns at stake. Directly after this Supreme Court case American wine wholesalers started to claim there are serious health and safety concerns with direct shipping of wine.
Yes, it’s a cynical ploy. Yes, it’s a pretext for protection from competition. Yes, it is a claim backed by no evidence. But it wouldn’t be a wine wholesaler claim if it wasn’t all these things.
Yesterday evening, just after the wholesalers sent out their press release celebrating their 20 years of failure to convince states to use the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act to stop interstate wine shipments, I got an email from one of America’s most prominent wine writers. They had received the press release. The email was a single sentence:
“Is this as ridiculous as I think it is?”
My response: “Yes and no. Yes, it’s ridiculous on its face. No, it’s not so ridiculous because wine wholesalers want to convince as many people as possible that wine shipping is dangerous.”
And who is most dangerous for? It used to be those Pinot Noir-swilling minors. Now, the danger is for those “unsuspecting customers”.