Free the grapes!

Talk to a legislator about the bill to allow Tennesseans to purchase wine online and have it shipped, and you’re likely to encounter the response that the law is designed to keep alcohol from minors.

Bovineoffal.

The Tennessean captures it more accurately:

To outsiders, the debate may seem like an arcane regulatory struggle. But wine enthusiasts have found common cause with free-marketeers who argue that systems such as Tennessee’s, which relies on large wholesalers, stifles free enterprise and a booming Internet wine market, to the detriment of consumers.

Such laws are under scrutiny because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shook up a long-standing system of wine distribution and helped spur a boom of Internet wine sales.

The debate has pitted small vineyards, wine collectors and specialty retailers against large distributors that have dominated wine distribution since Prohibition.

Pure and simple, our current system creates a protected monopoly for middlemen who both stifle the choices available to consumers and inflate prices.

The biggest barrier to changing Tennessee’s laws, according to critics, is the lobbying clout of alcohol wholesalers. Wholesalers donated some $50 million to state political campaigns between 2000 and 2006; more than $800,000 was spent in Tennessee, said Tom Wark, the executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association.

"If I was a wholesaler, I’d be concerned about maintaining a monopoly, too," Wark said.

Today would be a good day to e-mail your state senator and state representative, and express your support for this concept.  While you’re at it, you might also consider expressing support for allowing wine sales in grocery stores — another measure that would improve price and selection for the consumer.

I spoke to Sen. McNally about it last week, and pointed out that it makes little sense to me that we don’t allow wine to be sold in a grocery store, but it’s perfectly okay to sell beer in a gas station.  What message does that send??

As a mother of teenagers, I’m quite on board with efforts to deter alcohol sales to minors.  However, given that retailers are now required to check ID for anyone purchasing alcohol — including obvious senior citizens — it really doesn’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference where the products are sold.  What matters is diligence in following the law, ensuring that the purchaser is 21 or older.  That’s not too hard.

The current law supports archaic protectionism and unfair restrictions of trade, and it’s wrong.  Make some noise!

12 Responses to “Free the grapes!”

  1. on 05 Feb 2008 at 10:21 am Volunteer Voters » The Wine Reformation

    […] Citizen Netmom is glad that our arcane wine and liquor laws are finally getting some attention: Today would be a good day to e-mail your state senator and state representative, and express your support for this concept. While you’re at it, you might also consider expressing support for allowing wine sales in grocery stores — another measure that would improve price and selection for the consumer. […]

  2. on 05 Feb 2008 at 10:31 am Punk HP

    Learn to make your own, and put them all out of business. Except for the Australian Port Makers of Course.

  3. on 05 Feb 2008 at 11:42 am shane

    Punk HP: One warning — just be sure to let your Realtor know if you ever sell your house. A Realtor friend told us a colleague was showing a house, went into the basement and quickly rushed out claiming “They’re making Meth here!” Police show up about the same time as the owner; when the police say they don’t have a warrant but they’d like to see the basement, the owner says “I’d love to show you my basement.” Turns out it wasn’t meth he was making, it was wine…. 🙂

  4. on 05 Feb 2008 at 10:59 pm Joel

    @Punk HP,

    I doubt seriously that you can make wines that measure up to the stuff I drink in St. Louis for $15/bottle or less.

    @shane,

    “A Realtor friend told us a colleague was showing a house, went into the basement and quickly rushed out claiming “They’re making Meth here!”

    Meth manufacture looks like wine brewing? Things have certainly slipped in OR since I lived there! What a maroon!

  5. on 06 Feb 2008 at 12:17 pm Punk HP

    Joel , you are correct. There is no way anyone around here could make anything close to MD 20/20, St. Louis’s favorite drink. As for less than $15.00/ bottle, you are an idiot.

  6. on 06 Feb 2008 at 3:22 pm Jacket

    Actually wine making has become one staple industry in the Eastern TN. area. It has climate “similar” to the Rhine Valley, and parts of the wine country in France. Crossville has several very good wineries, all started at home. Stone House in Crossville makes a very good Muscadine wine.

  7. on 06 Feb 2008 at 5:20 pm girlfriend

    Joel:

    Try Little Italy on the hill in St. Louis. There are many winemakers up there and I can guarantee you there wine is great.

  8. on 07 Feb 2008 at 7:46 am Joel

    @girlfriend,

    I’ve been to the Hill many times during my 25+ years here, but so far have never been served a wine made on the hill at any restaurant. Indeed, I’ll bet that’s illegal. But the food there is good, and inexpensive.

    @Pumpkin HP,

    “MD 20/20, St. Louis’s favorite drink.”

    Heh. First and last time I tasted MD 20/20 was in Oak Ridge. I see things haven’t changed.

    “As for less than $15.00/ bottle, you are an idiot.”

    LOL! Just picked up several bottles of Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec for 14.95. Very tasty!

    Don’t worry, sonny. You’ll understand when you grow up.

  9. on 07 Feb 2008 at 3:45 pm Punk HP

    @Bloel
    Sounds like you might want to find a nice warm and friendly AA meeting, so you can vent your obvious frustration and anger.

  10. on 07 Feb 2008 at 5:09 pm Joel

    @Punkin,

    ” . . . so you can vent your obvious frustration and anger.”

    Aw, punkin, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I’m not angry with you for calling me an idiot. Indeed, I only feel compassion for you.

    As for AA, you are confused. Just drinking wine doesn’t make someone an alcoholic.

  11. on 11 Feb 2008 at 11:26 am Punk HP

    @Bloel…. I never said you were an alcoholic, just an angry little man. AA could still help you.

  12. on 11 Feb 2008 at 8:31 pm Joel

    “an angry little man.”

    Ah, projecting again, eh, punkin?

    Don’t you have homework to do?

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