Direct Shipping Dust-Up
It's a bit inside baseball, as it were, but there's a lot of fervent discussion, finger-pointing, and flat out anger floating around the wine retailing world (and consequently the wine blogosphere) right now over a recent report that wine.com—a substantial internet wine retailer—has been sending letters to state alcohol regulators identifying other retailers who are violating state shipping laws about wine (many of which are absurdly restrictive, and largely still in place because of the vast lobbying power of the liquor wholesalers in this country).
Anyway, it's basically one large retailer—who, admittedly, does play by the rules—apparently setting up stings to nail other retailers who don't. And, boy howdy, talk about jamming the stick into the ant's nest. Vinography has a long, interesting and—as is characteristic—very thoughtful thread on the whole thing. So does Tom Wark's Fermentation blog (Tom is the director of the Specialty Wine Retailer's Association, which lobbies for legalizing direct shipping of wine, and itself has an interesting blog about shipping laws, etc). Meanwhile, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association has, unsurprisingly, jumped in on the side of wine.com; strange, slightly queasy-making bedfellows, I think, but the cynic in me isn't surprised in the slightest.
Why do you care? Well, if you've ever wondered why you can't simply get on the internet and have wine shipped to you from a winery in California—for instance if you live in one of these states—all this business about direct shipping and who's sending what where directly pertains. If the WSWA has its way, you'll never be able to have wine shipped directly to you from a winery; if the SWRA, Free the Grapes, and various other organizations their way, then you will. It's worth considering.