Bay State Buffoons – Take Action!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 02-07-2014

It sucks to be a wine consumer in Massachusetts.

The state bans winery- and retailer-to consumer shipping. It prohibits supermarket wine sales. Corkage hardly exists – restaurants are only allowed to offer BYO if they don’t have a liquor license.

AWCCIt’s no wonder why Massachusetts ranked 43rd – and received an “F” – in the American Wine Consumer Coalition’s 2013 report grading states on the consumer friendliness of local wine laws.

Eighty years after the end of Prohibition, Bay State consumers still live under archaic laws that disregard their interests and enrich special-interest groups.

Yesterday in Wine Industry Insight, Lewis Perdue brought attention to a shocking story which shows the stunning influence of Bay State liquor wholesalers.

The Boston Wine Expo takes place next weekend. It’s a huge event — about 20,000 people are expected to attend. The Expo rented booths to Xfinity, the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ameriprise, and a host of companies selling wine and wine-related products.

But they’ve barred the American Wine Consumer Coalition from attending.

The reason? The AWCC would tell consumers about HR 249, a bill that’ll make it easier to access wine via direct shipment. If it passes, it’ll impact wholesalers’ profits. So expo director James Carmody and his allies are trying to keep consumers in the dark.

This is insane. Please spread this story far and wide and urge your friends in Massachusetts to get involved. They can write the media, write their representatives, and raise a ruckus.

HR 249, introduced by Rep.Theodore Speliotis, would finally allow consumers to have wine shipped to their home from out of state wineries. But as written, it would keep the prohibition on shipments from out-of-state retailers. To express your support – and urge him to amend the bill to also allow consumers to purchase wines from out-of-state retailers — send him an email at Theodore.Speliotis@mahouse.gov.

Again, please spread the word!

Help the AWCC!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 12-21-2011

Please take this brief survey!!!

As some readers know, I’m helping Tom Wark launch The American Wine Consumer Coalition, which is moving closer and closer to reality. Tom has put together a fantastic board of directors and a great business plan — and the website is almost finished.

The thought process behind the group is simple. When policymakers consider legislation and regulation that’ll impact consumer access to wine, actual consumers are never consulted. Lawmakers will brag about giving “everyone” a seat at the table, but without fail, that consists solely of producers, wholesalers, and retailers. Consumers just don’t matter.

The AWCC will change that by giving wine consumers a voice.

And today — for the first time — we’re asking for your help. As part of our efforts to better understand wine consumers’ interests, we’ve put together a really short surveyPlease take a few minutes to complete it. It’ll help us tremendously as we prepare to launch the group.

Thanks in advance! Please share on facebook, tweet, send to your friends, etc. The more data we have, the better.

Thank you!

Prohibitionists Are Alive and Well

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 10-13-2011

Ken Burns.

In the past, I’ve highlighted the work of the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade group that’s helping fight the good fight against neo-prohibitionists and HR 1161.

Sarah Longwell, the managing director of ABI, has an excellent oped in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch pegged to Ken Burns’ new documentary on Prohibition. In the piece, she explains how even though the Great Experiment ended nearly 80 years ago, “prohibitionists are alive and well today.” An excerpt:

“Decades after the repeal of the 18th Amendment, busybody activists are pursuing policies to make it more difficult for consumers to drink socially and urging governments to use every tool in their sheds to cut down on casual alcohol consumption…

Policies such as higher alcohol taxes, sobriety checkpoints, lower legal drunken-driving thresholds, restrictions on Sunday sales, alcohol advertising bans, and initiatives to put alcohol-sensing devices in all cars as original equipment are touted as solutions to problems such as underage drinking, alcoholism and drunken driving.

But in reality these laws aren’t about curbing alcohol abuses; they’re part of a neo-prohibitionist effort to restrict the consumption of alcohol no matter how moderate.”

Check out her full piece at the Richmond Times Dispatch.

NJ Asm. Cryan Should Stop Lying

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 08-15-2011

NJ Asm. Joseph Cryan, who opposes wine consumers' rights.

In New Jersey, direct shipping from both in-state and out-of-state wineries is illegal. In-state wineries, though, are allowed to sell directly to local wine stores and have off-premise tasting rooms – but out-of-state wineries are prohibited from both activities. In December, a federal court ruled that this discrimination is unconstitutional, and instructed the New Jersey legislature to act.

Lawmakers have introduced two separate measures to address this issue.

Senate bill S-2782 would allow all America’s wineries producing less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually to ship wine to New Jersey consumers.

This bill isn’t ideal, as the volume limit presents a host of issues, but it’s a start. New Jersey’s wineries have thrown their support behind direct shipping and rallied behind this measure, even though it means increased competition.

The other proposal, Assembly bill 3831 would allow out-of-state wineries to open tasting rooms in New Jersey — but would revoke New Jersey wineries’ right to sell wine directly to retailers, bypassing the middleman wholesaler.

As Tom Wark recently explained, “By revoking the right of New Jersey wineries to self distribute their wines directly to wine stores, these wineries become at the mercy of New Jersey wholesalers if they want to see their wines sold in retail stores. Put another way, this bill will kill numerous New Jersey wineries.”

Unsurprisingly, the lawmaker who introduced A3831, Joseph Cryan, is in the pocket of the special-interest groups that oppose wine consumers’ rights. In just the past two election cycles, he has taken more than $35,000 from wholesalers and wine stores, both of which oppose direct shipping. His largest campaign contributor is Allied Beverage Group, which is New Jersey’s largest liquor distributor. Since 2005, Allied has contributed a whopping $50,000 to Cryan.

Last week, Cryan wrote an op-ed about his bill that would make Pinocchio blush. Read the rest of this entry »

SWRA Releases Eye-Opening Report on Wholesalers’ Political Influence

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 07-12-2011

Today, the Specialty Wine Retailers Association released an eye-opening report – “Toward Liquor Domination” — on the political spending of alcohol wholesalers.

The numbers are shocking. Since 2006, wholesalers have spent more than $82 million on state and federal campaign contributions and lobbying, dwarfing what’s spent by the rest of liquor industry. Among the report’s findings:

- Over the past three election cycles, wholesalers have spent more than $15.4 million dollars on contributions to federal campaigns.
- At the state level, wholesalers have contributed more than $58 million to political campaigns over the past three election cycles.
- At both the state and federal level, the wholesaling industry has spent roughly twice as much on political campaigns as the rest of the alcohol industry, combined.

All this spending makes sense, as the industry’s existence — which is a relic of Prohibition — depends on political support. Read the rest of this entry »

#StopHR1161! Stupid Has No Party

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 06-10-2011

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who introduced the bill.

HR 1161 – also known as The Wholesaler Protection Act and The Wine Consumer Screwage Act – is up to 81 congressional cosponsors. It’s also a great example of bipartisan boneheadednes — the bill’s sponsors include 37 Democrats and 44 Republicans.

So this isn’t a Democratic bill or a Republican bill – it’s a stupid bill, and stupid has no political party. Supporters on the right say it’s about states’ rights; supporters on the left say it’s about protecting the children. It’s about neither – the bill is about protecting the wholesalers’ government-backed monopoly as the distribution chain for beer and wine. Read the rest of this entry »

Caution: Temperance Lives

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 06-07-2011

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Politicians love banal acronyms.

Earlier this spring, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the “Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere Act of 2011.” Supporters call it the “ROADS SAFE Act,” and it would allocate $60 million over the next five years to “explore the feasibility and the potential benefits of… more widespread deployment of in-vehicle technology to prevent alcohol-impaired driving.”

That’s quite a mouthful, but the bill is actually quite simple: The federal government would provide funding for car manufacturers to install alcohol detection devices as standard equipment on all cars within 5-10 years. These devices — pre-installed ignition interlocks — would prevent cars from starting if an alcohol-sensing device registers above a pre-set level.

Don’t get me wrong — drunk driving is really, really bad. In 2009 alone, nearly 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. But this bill is dangerous, and it would make criminals out of all of us. How come? It would eventually result in government busybodies preventing us from driving home after drinking a single glass wine at dinner.

I assure you I’m not wearing a tin-foil hat. Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Gordon Says #StopHR1161!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 06-01-2011

For the past several years, Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon has served as the director of annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley. I got to know Jim at this year’s Symposium (where I was a fellowship recipient), and I can attest to the fact that he’s one of the kindest people in the industry. And he also knows his stuff — he’s been covering the wine industry as an editor and reporter for more than 25 years, so he’s super interesting to talk with.

Jim just posted a 3-minute video on YouTube urging the industry to rally together to oppose to HR1161. As he explains, “everyone in the wine-making business should know about this new legislation and personally take action to make sure it fizzles.” Check it out, share it with friends, family, and fellow oenophiles, and take action!

For more on why HR 1161 is so dangerous, check out my recent op-ed in the New York Times.

Postcard #2 From a Troubled Wine Region

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 05-19-2011

Courtesy of Zelda Sydney

Greetings, again, from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), three hours’ drive from the Okanagan wine-producing region. I last offered Terroirist readers the gloomy portrait of BC’s wine industry as painted by a local university policy wonk. Now, more bad news:

Vivid pink Japanese cherry blossoms have just finished blooming here, announcing Springtime for the West Coast. But anyone in an alcohol-related business might be thinking less ‘Spring’ and more ‘Thanksgiving.’ Why? Because the government monopoly business/regulatory agency that controls all alcohol movement in the province often keeps orders under lockdown in a bonded warehouse for lengthy periods of time and without reason. Retailers and restaurants need to think months in advance to ensure that they’ll have inventory they ordered.

Being forced to think “Pinot Noir and roast turkey” when customers are gearing up for “chilled rosé under hot July sun” is one of many complaints that BC’s restaurant owners and sort-of-private alcohol retailers have against their overseer/regulator and direct competitor, the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB).

If George Orwell and the Three Stooges created a business model, the BCLDB could be the fruit of their partnership. If the BCLDB were a film, maybe a remake of ‘The Parallax View’ with an MW in Robert Redford’s role, and sinister Parallax Corporation trying to assassinate…BC’s budding wine culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Translating the Wholesalers

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 04-15-2011

Last week, I had an op-ed in the New York Times on the story behind HR 1161 — explaining why it’s so dangerous and will hurt consumers. It ruffled quite a few feathers.

This week, Rebecca Spicer and Jerry Brown — the vice presidents of public affairs and communications for, respectively, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America – responded with a letter to the Times.

The response is chock-full of doublespeak, so I’ve helped translate it (in red text) below the fold…  Read the rest of this entry »