Bad News For Local Wine Lovers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Over the weekend I started getting the email notices about H.R. 5034.

It is a short bill. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in the potential to further entrench the power of private wine, beer and liquor distributorships. This is being done under the guise of eliminating litigation that might potentially open up the wine, beer and liquor markets to increased competition. Egads! The horror!   After decades of being told that dereguation is good, now that some of the goodness of it might trickle down to the common man, it must be eliminated.  Like the plague.  If this bill is passed, advocacy groups such as Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws,  Free The Grapes, The Specialty Wine Retailers Association and the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition attempts’ to allow you to purchase the wine of your choice will be forced to prove that the regulation in question:

“has no effect on the promotion of temperance, the establishment or maintenance of orderly alcoholic beverage markets, the collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, the structure of the state alcoholic beverage distribution system, or the restriction of access to alcoholic beverages by those under the legal drinking age.”

Ahh. right.  So we can’t improve our alcohol distribution system in our states because they achieve SOME of their goals?  Certainly not the most progressive reason I have ever heard.  But who do these regulations work for?  Not the consumer who can only buy what the distributors allow them to chose from at the price that the distributor decides to sell it to them for.  Not small wine shops which won’t be offered competitive prices because the big boys in the industry don’t have any incentive to deal with them.

Worse, the reasons given for  this legislation have been ridiculous.

Expensive wine keeps our children safe from disease and alcoholism.  The law would allow the States to avoid expensive litigation brought by advocacy groups.  An open wine market would return us to the days of Tommy Guns and Al Capone because liquor is a “lawlessness unto itself”1.

Who are they kidding?  The aim of this legislation is not to improve temperance (who said this should be the goal of the state?) and protect children but rather to insulate those individuals who control the distribution channels.  The proof of this?  The legislation is almost verbatim from a draft written by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.   Are we really to suppose that they love my children more than I do?  I don’t think so.  But they do love the monopolistic powers granted them from the states.

If they manage to get their way with this legislation, you can be certain that the Distributors will not be content with State laws as they exist.  Slowly but surely, you will find them working to make certain that their products are the only legal game in town.

The legislation has been introduced by Reps. Coble of NC (who’s number one contributor was the NBWA), Chaffetz of UT (also received donations from NBWA), Delahunt of MA (his PAC has received donations from various alcohol concerns) and unfortunately my own Congressman, Mike Quigley.

I have already called Congressman Quigley’s office in Washington and left a message with his Legislative Aide. To date, I have not recieved an answer back. And honestly, after the experiences that I had with the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition, this doesn’t surprise me. I found that most of the politicians that I tried to speak to, even those, who like Rep. Quigley represent me, never had the courtesy to return a call or an explanation of their policy positions. Which leads me to speculate…. cynically.

If I ever hear back from the Congressman’s office, I will let you know what I learn.  In the meantime, I urge you to contact you member of Congress and tell them that you oppose this legislation.

You can find the contact information here.

1. Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 US 390 (1941)  (I always try to make my point with 70 year old litigation… it makes your point seem so modern and relevant)

Pours For Justice

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Do you believe that local government shouldn’t micromanage how and from where you buy wine?

Are you a resident of the Land of Lincoln?

Have you joined the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition?  Well, why not? (hint? Click here to join NOW!)

If you haven’t gotten to join us yet, then this is the best time to do so.  We are beginning to ramp back up to fight for our wine rights in Illinois (politicians were somewhat obsessed with some sort of political scandal earlier in the year… you might remember it… something about the Governor and impeachment).  Now that the worst of that issue has been worked out it is time to return to the citizens of Illinois the right to purchase wine from out of state retailers, wine clubs and auction houses that we had prior to the passage of HB 429.

And there is going to be a great event to begin the new campaign…

Pours for Justice will be held August 6, 2009 from 5-7:30 at the Chicago Cultural Center (an architectural jewel that should not be missed).  Wine will be provided by The Chicago Wine Company, music by The Lake Effect.  The Event is being sponsored by The Specialty Wine Retailers Association, The Chicago Wine Company, the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition and Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.  Tickets are $100.

Tickets may be purchased at http://www.specialtywineretailers.org/donate.html or you can click on the logo below…

I look forward to seeing you there!

A Bad Week For Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition

Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition

That is the only conclusion that I can come to.  An extremely bad week for wine.  Particularly if the wine isn’t nearby.

Maryland’s efforts to reform their wine laws has failed for this year when HB 1262 died in committee.  They are gearing up for next year’s fight already and if you want to help you can contact Adam Borden here.

Consumers in New York lost their effort to be able to purchase wine in grocery stores even though you can already buy beer there.  This makes NO sense to me as we in Illinois can buy beer, wine and liquor in grocery stores and yet we still appear to have healthy number of liquor stores.  (maybe I should take a survey of my neighborhood vs. one in NYC to show difference…)

and as finally, as Kevin pointed out yesterday, Michigan’s new, ridiculous law regarding wine shipping went into effect.

Over all?  Not a good week for wine.  Illinois’ proposed new law is still waiting to come back out of the rules committee and to progress.  If you are interested in working to opening the Illinois wine market to  outside retailers, please come join us at the Illinois Wine Consumer Coaltion (www. illinoiswineconsumers.org).  Let’s make sure that consumers SOMEWHERE in the United States is free to buy the wine of their choice legally.

Wine Biz Radio

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor


In case you missed it, here is podcast of last night’s Wine Biz Radio discussing the work of the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition. I chatted with Randy and Kaz and spoke with ChicagoPinot who called in to chat!

I even mentioned that my 12 year old acts as my personal sommelier (which hopefully doesn’t land me in the clink) I can’t help it. I like the way she smells the wine and pronounces it as “grape-y”. Oh and keep your eyes open. It is quite possible that this episode of WBR will be named “Sophie-bear” in her honor.

Hopefully you, will get a kick out of this and try to picture me in leiderhosen, although I think a Brünnhilde costume would be more appropriate!

Illinois Consumer Group Stands Up For Wine Lovers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I just got the notice of this:

—Specialty Wine Retailers Supports Efforts by Illinois Consumers to Address Unfair Wine Laws—

With the founding of the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition (http://www.illinoiswineconsumers.org), that state’s consumers are finally fighting back against powerful interests that have taken control of the rules and regulations of Illinois concerning consumer access to wine. The Specialty Wine Retailers Association congratulates Illinois consumers for organizing and becoming part of a legislative process that has degenerated into an exercise in protectionism for the state’s powerful alcohol wholesaler lobby. It is only by consumer involvement that the nature of the process can be changed.

Passed by the Illinois legislature and signed into law by Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2007, HB 429 stripped Illinois consumers of their right to purchase wine from out-of-state wine stores, Internet wine stores, wine auction houses and non-winery wine clubs. During the negotiations that led to the law, no consumers were consulted. The result was that Illinois consumers lost access to the vast majority of wines available in the American marketplace for the sake of protecting Illinois wholesalers from competition.

Since 2002, Illinois alcohol wholesalers contributed $563,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns. In October 2007, Governor Blagojevich signed into law the anti-consumer, wholesaler-protecting bill (HB 429) that forced Illinois consumers to purchase most wines only from in-state wholesaler-serviced wine stores in Illinois.

Governor Blagojevich Proclaimed July 10, 2008 Beer Distributor Day in Illlinois. Since 2002 the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois have donated over $96,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns.

“Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA) is very proud of Illinois consumers for organizing to try to take back their ability to access the wines they want and to fight special interest legisltion,” said Tom Wark, Executive Director of SWRA. “SWRA fully supports consumer involvement in wine shipping issues as well as a return to well regulated consumer access to wine in Illinois.”

The Specialty Wine Retailers Association is a national group that advocates fair, non-discriminatory and well-regulated direct shipment of wine. For more information about SWRA see http://www.specialtywineretailers.org .

For more information go visit the IWCC site.

News for Illinois Wine Lovers

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

You might have noticed the logo for the IWCC and wondered what that was all about.

Those of you in IL are probably aware that last year, a law was passed that prohibited us from purchasing wine from out of state retailers (although, strangely, in state retailers can still ship out of state). A group of us have gotten together and formed a non-profit group advocating the change of this law to re-grant the right to shipping that we had for 15 years – The Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition.

We’re hoping that with enough voices, enough signatures on the petition, we can get the attention of our legislators and change this anti-consumer law.

Please visit our website and sign up, sign the petition, and most importantly, share this info with your Illinois wine drinking friends! As little as a few thousand names can really make our voice heard – we need your help.

Also, beginning tomorrow we should be getting some press coverage – so write to your editorial pages, send a letter to your representatives, and let’s get our access to fine wine back!

Let me know if you have any questions, ideas for us, or want to get more involved, or would like to donate in support of IWCC.

The legal tide is turning in our favor – now is our time to make a difference!