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Wine Communism: U.S. State's Non-Compliance to Wine Shipping Laws

Here's a little quiz for all of you out there in wine-land. What do you call a government that:

  1. Limits the choices of products available to its citizens by offering them only via government-run monopoly that has no incentive to provide competitive prices, good customer service, or expanded selection;
  2. Charges its citizens a premium for the "privilege" of the products limited choices & poor service, including taxation on goods already controlled by the government;
  3. Refuses to change archaic legislation that was enacted over 50 years ago, in order to protect its monopoly position & profits;
  4. Does nothing to alter its stance or comply with changing federal law, nearly three years after its current legislation has been deemed unconstitutional at both the federal and regional levels?
In most circles, the first two points could be considered Communism.

Technically, the later two points aren't Communism, but I'd like to think that most people would at least consider them reprehensible...

Unfortunately, what I've described above is more-or-less what the state of Pennsylvania is doing in its wine trade, which is controlled by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Bucking the Law Means Big $$$ for States
Actually, now that I consider it, I haven't been entirely honest with you so far. Since the Federal government ruled that PA's liquor laws banning interstate trade were unconstitutional in 2005, the PLCB has done something. It's made money. Approximately $3 billion dollars in sales (that's Billion, with a "B"), in fact. That is roughly twice the GDP of the country of Liberia.

That's big, big money. In the case of the PLCB, it's record-setting sales money, all achieved while operating what has been determined an unconstitutional system.

This is not just impacting PA wine lovers (& wineries) - similar situations are playing out in other states. The ones who benefit are the middle-men (distributors and state governments). The ones who get the short end of the stick? That's you & me, baby (and the people making our favorite beverages!).

Distributors are - not surprisingly - paying big money to protect this windfall. What is surprising is that those same groups are claiming that money is not the motivator in their efforts to protect the "three tier system" of wine shipping. $3 billion in 2 years, seemingly operating unconstitutionally, and it's not about the money?!?? I don't know how they can even say that with a straight face...

Whether You Know it or Not, You're Being Taken for a Ride
If you live in one of the States that prohibits (or seriously discourages) direct shipping of wine, and you buy wine, then you're getting screwed. Your wine choices are probably limited. You might have little (if any) recourse to purchase the wines that you want. And likely, you're paying too much for the wines that you are able to get.

What You Can Do About It
Big money issues like this one will not go away on their own. They require that wine consumers who want a fair deal - people like you (and me) - fight back:
  1. Visit the Shipment Compliant blog to find out where your state stands, and to catch the latest news in the fight for fair wine shipping for your state.
  2. If you have a blog or website, read Tom Wark's posts on fighting back and link to support Wine Without Borders.
  3. Visit (and support) FreeTheGrapes.org.
  4. Write to your state legislators and let 'em know how you feel! I have (many times) - and trust me, some of them will respond!


Ikigai said...

Great, great post. Very well presented information.

We recently responded to the wine.com situation over at Classic Wines, but in our press release we inform the reader that the real menace is american shipping laws.

We've joined the SWRA and free the grapes, and encourage others to listen to the dude!

In case your interested, view our press release regarding wine.com and shipping laws.

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks, Matthew! I appreciate the comment.

I enjoyed the press release - especially the part about being able to buy missile parts on-line more easily than wine! - I wish I could purchase wine from your site... but of course you know the Communist-wealth of Pennsylvania would consider us both criminals if that happened! ;-)

SB Wine Advocate said...

Hi Joe,

Would you be willing to share the letters you wrote your congressman. Maybe people could use those as a start to send in their own letters. Its astounding to me how this stuff is still allowed to go on but then I get mad that there's and IRS and not just a flat tax for everyone.. Too many people have too much money to gain by preventing free access to wines. Not to you can't buy healthcare insurance from another state.. less competition there too.. and thus high insurance rates.. Where's my Presidential candidate..

That was a rant.. I had too much coffee.

Joe Roberts said...

What's great about FreeTheGrapes.org is that they have pre-populated note (which you can edit if you like). You type in your ZIP code, and it will find your legislators and e-mail the note to them ('signed' by you). So they've done most of the legwork for you, which is awesome.

I've personally used this in the past, and I've had one of the legislators respond back to me in support of the views.

You can check it out here:

Interestingly... I've checked some of the stats for my blog traffic for this post, and I'm seeing activity coming from domains like "state.pa.us" and "senate.gov" - so it looks like it's already getting some minor attention!

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