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Wine Shipping 2011: Is It Time to Compromise?

Everyone seems to be in agreement that the year for consumer wine shipping will be 2011, and we are really grateful for this progress. The majority of both the House and Senate have co-sponsored this year’s legislation which includes both winery and retailer shipping just as it has for the last four years. We are especially grateful for the leadership position Senator Joan Carter Conway is taking to bring consumer choice to Maryland. With the canards of underage access and tax evasion resoundingly refuted by the Comptroller’s report, the opposition has now focused their efforts on trying to strip retailers out of the bill.

Many retailers around the state want the right to be able to ship wine to you and thousands of other customers across the country. These retailers are not members of the main liquor store retailer association in Maryland because their interests are not aligned. The Comptroller did not include the opinions of many of these enlightened store owners in his wine shipping report because they were not formally organized, so the results were primarily from packaged goods stores. Needless to say, the Comptroller’s report might have been substantially different had his staff asked fine wine stores if they saw shipping as an opportunity rather than a threat. The report claims significant economic harm to the Maryland retail community when the average bottle of wine shipped is almost $50 while the average bought at a packaged goods store is closer to $15. Wouldn’t this seem to imply that the customers buying $50 bottles of wine are just a little different than your “average” consumer?

Without retailers, we as consumers will not be able to purchase most wine-of-the-month clubs, older vintages or imported wines that are not already sold in Maryland. Although winery direct shipping helps us partly, it does not address the way we want to buy our wine. Now is the time to let your voices be heard!

Here are two things you can do now:

1) Call or email your state Senator and Delegate(s) to urge them to contact the appropriate colleagues on the House Economic Matters Committee (ECM) or Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee (EHEA) to make sure retailers stay in the bill. You can visit which will show you your representatives once you fill in your home address. Please be sure to send polite and courteous emails! Here is a sample email:

Subject: Keep Retailers in Wine Shipping Bill (HB234/SB248)

Dear Delegate/Senator,

I am your constituent and want to make sure the direct wine shipping bill includes retailers. I want to be able to order wine-of-the-month clubs and imported wines which I won’t be able to do if your colleagues on ECM and EHEA choose to strip them out of the bill. Please lend your voice of support by letting them know you want the bill to stay as is.


Your Name
Your Address
Your Phone Number

Alternatively, you can call Legislative Services at 410-946-5400 who can tell you your representatives once you give them your home address.

2) Wine retailers across Maryland need to hear from you that you want them to be able to ship too. Call your local wine retailer and urge them to contact their state senator and delegates to make sure their right to ship stays in the bill. If your local merchants don’t hear from you, then they won’t realize how important retailer shipping is to their customers.

To represent the voice of the progressive wine retail and wholesale industry, the Wine Merchants Association of Maryland (WMAM) recently formed. These retailers, importers and distributors want a more open marketplace in Maryland so that consumers and businesses alike can get what they want. Mitchell Pressman, WMAM President, acknowledged that, “there is essential value in the three-tier alcohol distribution system in Maryland. Our small business members, however, are unable to realize the American dream of growing our business without being able to ship wine to our customers. ...

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