I’ll admit: I’m a technology optimist. I’d like to believe we humans are getting better at this whole society thing as the years go on (although environmentalists might disagree). But when it comes to the wine industry, it’s tough to be glass half-full. Despite a few refreshing examples to the contrary, wine sales have been hampered by bureaucratic politics, beer/hard alcohol lobbyists, and backwards thinking. US online wine sales in the US are Byzantine at best and impossible at worst.
Take the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. Their liquor review board recently announced that you can purchase wine at kiosks in select grocery stores. Hooray!
The catch? You have to take a breathalyzer test before you purchase. The NY Daily News reports on the absurdity, “Keith Wallace, president and founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, described the kiosks as well-intentioned failures with limited selections and overtones of Big Brother.” Unfortunately, Pennsylvania isn’t alone. Examples of backwards state alcohol laws are all over the place.
So why all the hassle? Why can’t I buy wine where I want to when I want it? Are state politicians worried we’d all become alcoholics with improved access?
The reasons are less rational but not wholly unsurprising. Liquor stores want to maintain their monopoly on lucrative alcohol sales. And the powerful beer and hard alcohol lobby want to prevent the additional beverage choice. Americans drink Coors, not Chardonnay.
And what about if you want to get wine direct from the vineyard shipped to your home across state lines? Many states don’t allow wine shipping. Or when they do, they often treat shipping as a profit center – although not always.
Living in California has spoiled me. Wine, hard alcohol and beer are easily accessible at grocery stores. Or I can do a Napa or Sonoma day trip and go straight to the source. To the incredulous critics, no, we’re not a state of irresponsible drunks. And specialist wine and beer stores still thrive.
Taking politics out of the equation, it’s really a no-brainer for government, too: the extra tax revenue would help a lot of budget strapped states like New York.
Looking forward, this fragile balance is more tenuous than ever as a new bill attempts to eliminate all ‘consumer friendly’ wine laws making things even harder. Here’s to hoping politicians cut the BS and kill this silly plan.
Makes you wonder: how long ago was the 21st amendment?
[Photo credit: Oenologist, Another Wine Blog]