Monday, July 7, 2014

Rant: Caveats of Direct Wine Shipping

As I wrote in May, Direct Wine Shipments have been getting closer and closer to becoming a reality in Massachusetts. Previously, I noted that the Massachusetts House of Representatives submitted their proposal for the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget and it included an Amendment dealing with direct wine shipments. Since then, the Senate proposed their own Budget, which also included direct wine shipment language.

Then, a Conference Committee, with members of both the House and Senate, met and approved a compromise budget, reconciling the two different budgets and it included direct shipment language very similar to what was originally proposed by the House. That compromised budget has now been sent to Governor Deval Patrick, who has ten days to either approve the budget, or return it with vetoes. Later this week, the Governor's decision will be made and I'll note that the Governor has previously mentioned he would support direct wine shipment so there is reason for hope.

However, don't get too excited yet, thinking you'll soon be able to order wine from anywhere across the country. There are three important issues you need to understand, all matters which may serve to limit your ability to get wine delivered to you, despite this new law.

First, the new direct wine shipment law only applies to wineries and does not allow you to receive shipments of wine from out of state wine shops or online wine dealers. So forget ordering wine from those deal a day websites, or large online retailers. Only a winery, which manufactures, bottles or rectifies wine, can legally obtain a direct wine shippers license. Hopefully, we can hope that might change in the future, allowing Massachusetts residents to receive wine shipments from any wine retailer. For now though, the law will only affect wineries.

Second, any winery that wants to ship to Massachusetts must obtain a license to do so, which costs $300 for the first year, and $150 for each successive year. The winery must also follow all of the requirements within the law, such as annual reports and keep records to ensure resident receives more than 12 cases of wine each year. Not all wineries, especially the smaller ones, are going to obtain such a license. They might not see it as cost effective, or think that they are not going to do much business in Massachusetts. So don't assume that every winery is going to obtain a license to ship to Massachusetts. Your favorite out of state winery might just not participate.

Third, there is a serious issue as to whether shippers such as UPS and Fedex will ship wine from another state. For example, on the UPS website, it currently states: "UPS does not accept shipments containing wine to or from Massachusetts." If Massachusetts passes a direct wine shipment law, then both carriers will need to make changes, and that may cost them monies to license their own trucks to carry wine. And they must separately license each and every truck, instead of just acquiring a single blanket license. This could be a costly endeavor for them. What happens if they don't obtain the licenses, or only a few? That could cause problems with getting wine shipped to you. And it will also entail the wineries making agreements with the carriers too, additional work for those wineries. This is an issue that really needs to be worked out.

If the direct wine shipment law is passed, it will be a major step forward for Massachusetts wine consumers, but it is not a complete solution. There are still concerns that need to be addressed, so be happy, but it should be a measured happiness.


Tom said...

It just goes to show how many roadblocks a state can manage to make while still "allowing" direct shipment. Compliance is a huge obstacle for wineries and retailers. As you said, it's probably not worth it for many smaller wineries.

Anonymous said...

A great many small wineries already ship to MA, albeit illegally.

Michael Kaiser said...

One step at a time.

Ed said...

Well we are heading in the right direction.

Thanks for the update, and for keeping us informed.

Anonymous said...

No mention of international wine shipments. We recently visited France wineries, but had to ship our wine purchased to a friend in CT. When will this change?