21 December 2010

Md. Comptroller Releases Report on Direct Wine Shipment--but Beer Buffs, don't get excited yet....

Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot today released a long-awaited legislative report that wine enthusiasts hope will clear the way for legislation allowing direct wine sale shipments into Maryland.

The report is here, if you have business reasons for slogging through 257 pages in an Adobe PDF.

But beer enthusiasts eager to order prized beers not available in Maryland's retail markets may be in for a let-down:

Franchot's report does make a distinction between direct shipments from out-of-state wineries and out-of-state retailers. It says shipments from such wineries would be considered "exceptions" to Maryland's alcoholic beverage regulatory system.
But because shipments by out-of-state retailers would be "integral" to that three-tier system — producer, wholesaler and retailer — it pointedly says "allowing direct wine shipment from out-of-state retailers is incompatible with existing alcoholic beverage laws in Maryland."
Franchot said he personally supports a direct-sale law, but added that the report was not meant to dictate state policy. Maryland lawmakers, he said, "wanted the facts and that's what we're presenting today."
Indeed, the report explicitly recommends "Allow direct wine shipment for in-state and out-of-state wineries,
but not for out-of-state retailers."  The report cites several higher-court precedents for such distinctions in regulation.

Most craft breweries are not set up for direct retail sales, either legally or logistically, unlike wineries where traveling to the vineyard and purchasing direct is often an integral part of the experience.  If the above distinction is extended to applied legislation, there would be no exclusion for "beer-of-the-month" clubs or purchases from online retailers or bricks-and-mortar retail locations in other states--which would be the primary source of such retail sales, as I am to understand it.

Another factor at play: it's seldom worth the expense to ship two six-packs or a case of even an expensive beer, which would typically retail for less than the cost of a single premium bottle of wine or spirits.  There are exceptions, of course, starting with DuClaw Colossus (if you can find any left) and going up through mega-extreme beers by the likes of Sam Adams (Utopias, etc.), BrewDog, Dogfish Head, and the like.

(In an off-topic note, I noticed, while perusing the Comptroller's official website for a copy of the report that one of the images posted as background decoration is that of a Virginia lighthouse--Assateague Lighthouse, down near Chincoteague, Virginia.....)

1 comment:

chwi said...

-From my inquiry to Franchot's office about Direct Shipping and if there are any benefits for beer and breweries in Maryland. Looks like tough cookies for us.

Dear Mr.Chwi,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the provisions of the Direct Wine Shipment Report and how they would relate to micro and craft breweries, both in-state and out-of-state.

Unfortunately, there is no information on beer shipment, as Senate Bill 858 only charged the Comptroller with submitting a report "on the viability and efficacy of instituting in Maryland the policy of permitting direct shipment of wine to consumers in the State."

The report can be found on the Comptroller's website if you care to view it.

Please feel free to contact us if we can be of further assistance.

Chuck Ulm