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The 11 Worst States for Wine Consumers

August 14, 2013

If like most of our readers, you are a loyal wine consumer, consider a careful review of wine laws in the United States before your next move.  Few areas of the law have the enormous range of permissions and restrictions as those imposed by States on the production, distribution and retail sales of wine.  In a report just released by the American Wine Consumer Coalition, “Consuming Concerns: The 2013 State-by-State Report Card on Consumer Access to Wine”, States were graded from A to F based on six criteria.

  • Is winery to consumer shipping allowed?  Just back from Napa Valley and want to have a case of your favorite wine shipped to your home?  Well, if like me you live in Pennsylvania, you'll need to enlist the support of a friend or family member in another state to sign for your shipment.  Direct shipping from a winery to your home provides consumers with the widest possible array of choices.  Thousands of small production wineries sell 100% of their production out of the winery to wine club members, yet shipping is prohibited in nearly a dozen states.
  • Does your state have a monopoly on wine sales?  In some states the selection, distribution, and sale of wine to consumers is controlled by state government.  Choices are limited, prices higher and, as far as I know, no benefit other than revenue to the state results.  This is probably why only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, still have such laws.
  • Are shipments from retailers in another state allowed?  This is a tricky situation that applies mostly to imported wine.  Imported wine at the retailer level is purchased from a licensed, in- state distributor or importer.  In many states, if the wine you are looking for is not available through a state licensed distributor, you are not allowed to have it shipped from a distributor in a neighboring state, severely limiting your options.

  • Are Sunday wine sales permitted?  So called “Blue Laws” prohibiting sales on Sunday are, thankfully, rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  In the last year, Connecticut and the District of Columbia have dropped the restriction, leaving only four states still embracing the practice.  Despite this, local ordinances frequently restrict Sunday sales.
  • Can you bring your own wine into a restaurant?  The practice of bringing your own wine to your favorite restaurant (BYOB), is a great way to combine great food with a special bottle.  Unfortunately, fifteen states continue to make the practice illegal and others have confusing restrictions.
  • Are wine sales permitted in the grocery store?  Growing up in Connecticut, I remember reporting exuberantly after my first trip to California, that they actually sold wine in the local Safeway!  What an amazing idea, convenient and ecologically sound, yet 18 states still prohibit the practice (including Connecticut despite what the report says).

Unfortunately, 11 States received a grade of “F”, and 22 received a grade of “D” or lower.  Wine consumers in California, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon and Virginia should thank their oenophilic stars as they were rated “A+”. readers seem to reside in the more progressive states – 55% in States graded B or higher, with only 14% calling an “F” State home.  Coincidence?

To see how your state stacks up, and where you might want to move to next, access the complete report on the AWCC's web site.


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