Why can’t I buy wine from your website?

by Jana Harvey on January 12, 2010

We have had several potential customers ask us why we can’t ship wine to them.  As a result I have decided to write an informational BLOG that can help consumers understand the Wine Industry Plight. Basically if we can’t ship to you directly from our website; that is because we do not  have a direct ship license in your state.  Many customers make a statement “like such and such winery ships to me directly, why can’t you?”  Hopefully this Blog will explain why it is so.

Normally it would be understood that wineries should be able to ship wine to consumers that are 21 years of age or older.  But this is not always the case. The constantly changing regulatory environment for wine shipping and/or distribution poses an ongoing challenge and hassle for wineries looking to get their products into the hands of eager consumers. 

But, distributing wine is not the same as distributing books, it is a controlled product. Since the ratification of the 21st amendment in 1933, each state has the legal right to regulate the flow of alcohol within their borders. This has caused a hodgepodge of antiquated laws that are very different from state-to-state to understand and govern. Much of the existing legislation that regulates the sale and/or distribution of alcohol were written at a time when lawmakers had no idea of what would happen with today’s technology.

It is a situation that each winery must investigate the rules and how they impact and/or apply to their winery as well as the cost involved in obtaining a license to direct ship into that state.  Most licenses cost between $100 and $300 per year – several states have no license requirements but most do. Some states estimated fees for a license exceeds $800 a year and are also very difficult to get. It’s not always just the cost of the license but all of the reporting that is necessary to actually ship into that state.  Most states that require licenses also may require: monthly reporting, taxes to be paid, drivers license numbers to be obtained, fingerprinting, verification of birth date, and the requirements are always changing. 

People also wonder why the legislation is always changing.  There are several lobbying groups that are always pushing for a change in legislation such as “Free the Grapes” and “The Wine Institute” both have very good informational sites on the internet that can help consumers understand the problems.   So it really is easiest to explain that one winery may be able to ship into a state and another winery may not – it usually has something to do with $$$$ as we may not be able to obtain a license in a state that is expensive if we don’t have the customers to cover the expense.  The smaller the winery the bigger the problem.  With that said it is also interesting to note that even big wineries may choose not to ship into some states because there is something called the 3-Tier sales channel which protects Distributors in individual states.  Some distributors distribute in multiple states and it is in their best interest to keep wineries from selling their wine direct.

With all that said I want to tell you that we do ship direct through our website to 26 states.  And before you completely give up on us please call us at 707-968-9575 as we have other avenues to use to ship direct to all states except New Hampshire.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Connie & Bill Schlelein January 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

Thanks! That was explained well. What a backwards system we still subscribe to! Cheers, The JuJus

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