Most of you have probably seen the US headlines over the past few of years: "US Government lifts wine shipping regulations!" "Inter-state wine shipping now legal!"
If you're anything like me, these got you very excited - life's small pleasures, and all - but I write here with some sad news: it's not really that simple.
Not to be the voice of doom - in fact, the contrary. The small steps that we have recently made in the US are what allow us to send Argentina's best wines to our beloved customers and wine club members in the United States. I just wish we could ship to more of you.
We at The Vines are currently able to ship vino to 23 of our 50 fine states; of those 23, some allow nearly unrestricted shipping. We like them. Even if only one of the states I've ever lived in for more than a month is on that list. (California)
Some states, however, have volume restrictions - for example in the state of New Mexico, no more than 2 cases of wine (24 bottles) can be delivered to the same address in the same month. Others are what are called '3 tier states,' meaning that we have to send the wine to a local retailer, who then officially sends the wine to you. Certain states have liquor monopolies where no drop of alcohol can sold within state lines without going through the SLA (state liquor authority) - this means, in effect, that importers/producers sell to the state, and the state acts as the distributor, selling the wine (or spirits) to restaurants and retailers. Other states even retail the wine themselves.
I'm not even going to get into label requirements, and how they differ from state to state. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one.
Why I am telling you all of this? Well, besides the fact that it currently occupies the greater part of my workday, because awareness is the key to solving any problem. And don't be mislead - it is a problem.
Why is it that in 2007, with the booming wine culture that is expanding across every state of the American Union, wine is still viewed as a controlled substance? Didn't prohibition end in 1933? Not only is wine now being consumed in every state of the union, it is being produced in each and every one. Literally.
We're talking about a product with an average alcohol content of about 13%, and which is, after all, in general not cheap. Furthermore, we're referring to direct shipping from a winery, or from retailers such as The Vines who handle only quality boutique wines. If it's a fix you're looking for, it's just as easy to go to your corner liquor store.... I for one don't know many people who are visiting wineries and joining wine clubs where the wine is hand-chosen simply for intoxication. Don't get me wrong, the buzz is a nice bonus to drinking fine wine, but wine culture in the US is quickly moving in another direction, and the laws should continue to change the same way. Wine is consumed at more dinner tables then ever before, in more places, and by more age groups (all above 21, or course).
To this effect, I wanted to provide a few links for your reading pleasure, especially for those of you who live in states that do not allow direct shipping and want to help us do something about it. There is a campaign being waged in the United States, and if you are a wine lover without access to your favorite wines, or (more importantly, perhaps) to new potential favorites, armor up!
Free the Grapes: our favorite 'wine liberation site' here at The Vines, and probably the most comprehensive.
Wine Institute: "The Voice for California Wine." (Hey, our distribution center is in CA - where they can ship, we can ship)
Ship Compliant Blog: Updated semi-regularly, this blog provides updates to shipping regulations in the US. In readable prose.
I hope that these sites, and this post, help get some thoughts flowing. With any luck, they'll even get you a little fired up. Free the grapes! And drink the wine.
Most importantly, from all of us here at The Vines to all of you, HAPPY NEW YEAR.
(Wait - who is Aaron?)