Banning the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines

The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year is among the most anticipated announcements in the wine world every December. The wineries on the list promote their place on the list and consumers comb through the list to see which they’d like to try. It’s an important list.

If HB 210, Delaware’s proposed wine shipping law, is passed, fully 71 of the 100 wines on the 2020 list will be banned from shipment into the state of Delaware. 

You can click here for a list of the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines that would be banned from shipment.

This happens as a result of the proposed Delaware wine shipping law including a ban on the shipment of any wine from out-of-state wine retailers, which are the only entities that sell imported wines in the U.S. Most of the wines on the list will sell out quickly in Delaware, but they will be available elsewhere in the country from one retailer or another.

This is just one way of depicting the anti-consumer, anti-free trade nature of a wine shipping bill that bans shipments from retailers and only allows it from domestic producers. In fact, 30 of the 46 states that allow out-of-state wineries to ship wine into the states also ban out-of-state retailers from shipping wine into those states. If the Delaware bill passes, it will be joining a not-so-exclusive group.

The Delaware wine shipping bill, HB 210, is sponsored by Representative Michael Smith (R). The language for the bill comes from the CA Wine Institute and Free the Grapes.

I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: The transaction that occurs when a consumer purchases wine from a winery and has it shipped to their home is in every way identical to how an out-of-state retailer consummates a transaction with a consumer. In fact, in these instances, the wineries are acting exactly as retailers.

There is no real justification for banning Delaware consumers from receiving shipments of imported wines—or domestic wine for that matter. I think the California Wine Institute, Free the Grapes, and Delaware Representative Michael Smith would admit this. Nevertheless…

The Wine Spectator is an editorial project, not a retailer or winery or any other entity that sells wine. So, upon publishing the anticipated list of Top 100 Wines, their job is done. However, if upon publishing their 2021 Top 100 List the good, wine-loving folk in Delaware are laboring under the impact of HB 210, they will likely not have shipping access to 70% of the wines on that list.

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2 Responses

  1. David Gaier - May 26, 2021

    Tom-wondering if we know what is driving this absurd legislation specifically in DE, a tiny state with a very modest population, and seemingly not a place whose “legislators” would seem to want to plant a (misguided) stake in the ground.

  2. Tom Wark - May 26, 2021

    David, the urge to extend wine shipping rights to wineries but withhold them from retailers is not unusual. That said, it is driven by the wholesaler lobby, the in-state retailers, the wine institute and a failure of the Courts to enforce the teachings of the supreme court on the limits of discrimination in alcohol law.


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