Saturday, February 05, 2011

Wine Wars

It now appears that the Maryland General Assembly will pass some sort of bill allowing residents to buy wine online this year. In its current form the legislation would allow consumers to purchase wine directly from out of state wineries and retailers. Though the powerful state liquor lobby is beginning to come to terms with the concept of direct shipping from wineries, the prospect of Marylanders being able to also buy direct from out of state retailers is where they draw the battle line.

I decided to ask a HoCo loco wine merchant about this so I checked in with Dave Carney at The Wine Bin in Ellicott City.

“I’m all for it,” he told me.

Did that mean direct shipping from retailers too?

He told me he didn’t support that. When I asked him why he explained that some out of state retailers have an unfair pricing advantage over a retailer like him because of the volume of business they do.

“They can sell some wines cheaper than what I pay for it,” he explained.

I can certainly understand that. An out of state retailer isn’t likely to support community causes like The Wine Bin does either.

On the other hand, not all out of state retailers are high volume operations either. Some offer wine of the month clubs or selections of otherwise hard to find wines.

I also believe that there will always be bargain shoppers who will go out of their way to save a buck or two on a bottle wine. Some of these folks already make illegal forays across state lines to restock their wine cellars and most of them aren’t visiting wineries when they do.  

In the end I suspect the General Assembly will succumb to the pressure from the licensed beverage dealers and remove the provision for direct sales from out of state retailers in the final bill, regardless of popular support.
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