On Wine Shipping Coming to Massachusetts—A Report

On Tuesday, November 12 the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection held hearings in Boston on H.294, a bill that addresses the issue of direct shipment of wine. In the wake of those hearings, we can report the following on the effort to give MA wine consumers access to wine via direct shipment.

AT THE HEARINGS
The November 12 hearing in Boston a number of people gave oral testimony in favor of direct shipping. Among the organizations urging the committee members to pass direct shipping legislation were The American Wine Consumer Coalition, The California Wine Institute and the National Association of Wine Retailers. Additionally, a number of wine consumers took to the microphone to support the bill.

Only one organization spoke against direct shipment of wine at the hearing; The Massachusetts Package Store Association, an alliance of the state’s liquor stores.

WHAT NEXT:
The next step in the process will be to have the member of the committee vote on whether to “report out” H.294. If a majority of the members vote to report out the bill, it will then head to the full legislature. The Co-Chairmen of the committee (Representative John Scibak and Senator Thomas Kennedy) will play a key role in whether or not the bill even gets a vote by committee members. The bill could just as easily languish in committee without a vote ever taking place. The bill stays alive until the end of 2014.

THE POLITICS
It appears that the primary opponents of direct shipping in Massachusetts are the state’s liquor store owners and the state’s liquor distributors/wholesalers. By all indication, consumers are in favor of the legislation. Six members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection have co-sponsored direct wine shipping legislation this year (Scibak, Brodeur, Moran, Puppolo, Ross and Humason) Additionally, Governor Deval Patrick has said publicly that he would sign into law a direct wine shipping bill passed by the state legislature. Finally, the Massachusetts media has consistently editorialized in favor of direct wine shipping legislation.

WHAT SUPPORTERS OF DIRECT SHIPPING SHOULD DO NOW
1. Join AWCC to help support the consumer’s voice being heard
2. Email the Co-Chairmen and urge them to support H.294 with an amendment that allows MA consumers to have wine shipped to them from out of state wine stores as well as from wineries
3. Contact all friends and colleagues in the state and urge them to take the same action.

WHAT SHOULD YOU TELL THE CO-CHAIRMAN IN AN EMAIL?
“I urge you to support H.294, the direct wine shipping bill that if passed would give me and my fellow Massachusetts wine consumers access to direct shipped wine from out of state wineries. Additionally, it is important that H.294 be amended to allow Massachusetts wine consumers to have imported wines, Kosher wines and rare and collectible wines shipped to them from out-of-state wine stores.”

This message should come with your name, address and telephone number on it.
Click Here to email Co-Chairs Scibak and Kennedy

WHAT’S AT STAKE
Massachusetts has the third highest per capita consumption of wine in the United States. Wine drinkers in the state are among the country’s most diverse in terms of what they Choose to drink. Yet today, when they cannot find what they are seeking in the state, they are stymied, unless they choose to smuggle wines in from New Hampshire where wine shipping is legal and many currently have bottles shipped, then drive over the border to pick up their wine.

The American Wine Consumer Coalition is working to make life a little easier for Massachusetts wine consumers by work to see comprehensive direct wine shipping legislation passed in that state. This means giving consumers the ability to purchase wine directly from wineries, to purchase imported wines from in-state and out-of-state wine stores, to join out of state wine-of-the-month clubs, and to purchase and have shipped to them wines from auction houses out of state.