Friday it was frigid outside, but it was hard to feel cold when all of you kept the votes coming to celebrate our 100th post! Today we're back to business, though - and unfortunately, it's a nasty one. Here's the scoop: Late last November wine consumers made a toast to Judge Zobel (US District Court) for allowing winery-to-consumer wine shipments to proceed in Massachusetts. As you probably recall from my original post on the topic, this ruling was thought to be long overdue; the previous state law stipulated wineries producing more than 30,000 cases of wine per year and having a Massachusetts wholesaler were not allowed to ship directly to consumers themselves. Zobel ruled this regulation was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
But nothing is ever easy. News broke last week Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coaxley is going to fight the ruling. My question is simple: why?
Those in favor of the law are attempting to protect MA wineries and wholesalers. But the truth is, if you travel to a vineyard in say CA, WA, OR, or NY and decide you want a case of their wine, savvy consumers will only select wine you can't otherwise get locally. Why pay the additional shipping otherwise? The folks at Free the Grapes also report "winery anecdotal evidence clearly shows that a bottle of wine that is shipped directly does not replace a bottle purchased at a favorite restaurant or from a wine merchant. Legal winery-to-consumer shipments help to build awareness of wines and their sales through traditional sales channels." This is what I call a win-win, not a sum-zero game.
Even when I put on my Retail Hat and take off my Average-Jill-Wine-Consumer Hat, I can't see an argument in favor of this law. Allowing free trade state to state simply will not measurably impact sales negatively - for us at the shop or the wholesalers we work with. A case here and there just doesn't make or break you. Consumers will still seek wine expertise locally. And many won't be able to justify the additional shipping costs.
When I put on my Tax-Payer Hat I can't help but go bananas. In one breath newscasters are telling us about how schools will be closed next fall to help close the state budget gap. And in the next breath they tell us the state is using our tax dollars to finance the AG's efforts to appeal a federal ruling. Give me a break. This is good old fashioned inefficiency - and stupidity - at work.
Do you agree with my take?* Or do you see a stronger argument in favor of the Attorney General's efforts to maintain the law as is?
*NOTE: For any readers who agree with my stance, you can take action.