Wine Shipping Scare Stories

In a surprising number of states, the ability to purchase wine by mail order for home delivery is restricted or even prohibited. This is often the work of lobbying by distributors of alcoholic beverages who fear loss of monopoly control of wine shipping in their state. The justification for such restrictions never mentions boosting distributor profit margins (and hence their ability to contribute to the campaign coffers of state legislators); rather, these laws are always promoted as “protection for the children of our state”. No doubt images of merlot-swilling teens staggering about their state compel legislators to support these blatant restrictions on competition.

In what certainly looks like a story engineered by the aforementioned lobby, Minnesota’s Pioneer Press ran an article exposing the ever-present dangers from out of state wine – Wine ordered online lands in teens’ hands. In case that headline didn’t make the point, the article’s subhead screams, “Courier delivers liquor to teen; other laws are broken.” The story is describes a sting operation set up by the newspaper in which wine was ordered online by minors coached through the process and then, in a few cases, delivered without an age check by the freight company.

Does anyone seriously think that teens are going to start getting high by ordering Pinot Noir online, paying for shipping, waiting for delivery, and then getting inebriated with their buddies? “Dude… this is good stuff. Not as much fruit as the ’01, though, and it could use a bit more acidity. Pass the bottle, I’m not high yet!”

If you see an article like this in your local paper, take a minute to set the record straight – write a letter to the editor, or, better even, write your state legislators. Beverage distributors and store operators have a vested interest in limiting your right to choose where you buy your wines, and they are probably contributing to legislators in your area. Do your part to preserve your access to the broadest range of wines, not just those that your local monopolists choose to offer you!

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