When David and Goliath went toe-to-toe in the biblical story, the shepherd boy needed a slingshot and a rock to conquer the giant warrior. Today, the two would have a different weapons arsenal at their fingertips—one involving colorful legislators, lobbyists and the legislative process. But the battle lines for House Bill 568, an amendment to Louisiana’s alcoholic beverage laws, have been drawn and it’s an equally powerful battle over choice versus monopoly. On one side, you have the House of Representatives and wine enthusiasts who believe the market should be opened to allow direct shipping of wine to consumers from out-of-state wineries. On the other, you have the Louisiana Alcohol Wholesalers Association and its powerful
14. May 20, 2021, Napa, CA – A bill that benefits wine lovers urgently needs consumer support to implement true direct-to-consumer wine delivery in Louisiana, according to Free the Grapes! The National Coalition of Wineries and Wine Lovers encourages Louisiana wine lovers to visit their website and register before the 17th. May vote to lift the archaic restriction before a Senate committee considers the bill next week. https://freethegrapes.org
Direct deliveries from wineries are allowed in Louisiana and 45 other states. U.S. wine producers licensed to ship wine to Louisiana are currently permitted to ship a limited amount of wine to adult consumers in the state, must collect and remit sales and use taxes, and must accept Louisiana jurisdiction, among other standard provisions.
But Louisiana has an unusual reserve: It prohibits the direct shipment of wines already represented by a wholesaler in the state. This regulation requires wine producers to sell wine through wholesalers in Louisiana who are willing to transport the wine, or directly to consumers, but not in both cases. Only Wyoming and Indiana have similar laws; 43 other states do not.
The law limits consumer choice and convenience. If XYZ Winery’s Chardonnay is only sold at a retail store in Baton Rouge, a consumer in New Orleans would have to go to Baton Rouge to buy it; they wouldn’t be able to buy it at the winery and have it delivered. You cannot become a member of the wine club and still receive regular deliveries. Finally, while American consumers increasingly value the convenience and security of direct shipping due to COVID restrictions, this is not the case for wine lovers in Louisiana.
A simple solution: Bill 393
House Bill 393, sponsored by Representative Joseph Orgeron, simply repeals this ban. The relevant wording of the bill reads as follows: Under current legislation, a wine producer or manufacturer who is party to a wholesale contract is prohibited from selling and shipping sparkling or still wine directly to consumers. The proposed law replaces the current law.
This simple change will benefit wine lovers from the Pelican State by making more wines available and more convenient, giving consumers more choice. It will also likely result in a modest increase in tax revenue, said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes! We’ll drink at the Rep. Orgeron, to the passage of HB393 by the House of Representatives and the possibility of bringing Louisiana into line with bills being considered in 43 other states, he added.
Strong opposition to the bill in the Senate.
But Free the Grapes! has learned from local lobbyists that wholesalers are strongly opposed. Of course, opponents say the bill is about direct delivery to retailers (it’s not), that it would limit taxation (it’s not) and that it would open the floodgates to minors (it’s not), Benson said.
The presentation of HB 393 is scheduled for May 18 or possibly May 25. May be heard by the Senate Committee on Justice B.
Louisiana consumers can go to FreetheGrapes.org to learn more about the bill and put together a message that will be automatically sent to state lawmakers.
About the release of the grapes!
Founded in 1998, Free the Grapes! – is a national movement of consumers and wine producers to expand wine choice through legal and regulated free sales. https://freethegrapes.org
Direct wine distribution fills the gap when the traditional three-tier distribution channel – supply from winery to wholesaler to retailer – cannot meet consumer demand. Over the past 30 years, the number of wineries in the US has increased by over 500% to over 10,000. But U.S. wine producers produce thousands of new wines each harvest, and almost all are small, family-owned businesses that rely to some extent on DTC shipments in the 46 states where it is allowed.