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Wine shipping to Florida almost a gonner

I knew it would happen eventually. Those of us who enjoy being able to purchase wines outside of what's carried in our local wine shop and supermarket shelves were living in blissful ignorance for the last 2 years. That's how long it's been since the Supreme Court struck down prohibitive state laws barring inter-state wine shipments. For two years Floridians were able to purchase wine directly from wineries in any state allowing those wineries to ship hear.

But Florida, being home to the largest liquor distributor in the country, has a legislature which doesn't want it so stay that way. Not one, not two, but four bills are in the Florida legislature trying to put an arbitrary cap on the size of wineries that can ship directly to Florida.

If you're interested in reading more about this you can look here:
http://spangdish.blogspot.com/2008/03...

Not sure if there are many of you out there that take advantage of this right. Hopefully some of you might take a new interest and order some wine before it's too late!

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  1. You know, that really blows. But at the same time, it makes sense. If I cant order beer and have it shipped across state lines, then why should I be able to order wine in the same fashion? Then again, its perfectly legal to order booze this way... Im confused.

    But while we're on the topic of ordering wine on the internet - what is you favorite site L2M? Im interested in giving it a shot while I still can. Thanks!

    15 Replies
    1. re: Blind Mind

      The way legal wine shipping works is you have to order directly from the winery. It can't be a wine shop or liquor store or even an online retailer that doesn't have a presence in FLA. That said, I'm not sure the beer lobby is as adamant about cross state shipping as wineries are.

      The way it came about was FLA actually had wineries (not sure about their quality) that could ship to consumers in FLA; however, out of state wineries could not. This law was struck down because it discriminated against out of state wineries and no law was ever passed to replace it (until the attempts this year). That being said, I'm not sure what the laws relating to beer were/are.

      As for hard liquor, are you sure it can be shipped into the state? I remember having an issue with Hanger One in California and I finally gave up.

      So if there's a wine you've heard of or read about that you haven't seen in store shelves, go to their site and see if they stock and ship it. You're time may be running out.

      1. re: lax2mia

        Yeah, I had a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's 23yr bourbon (#1 rated bourbon in the world) shipped to me from NJ, so I know its possible. It always seems like rules only apply to those who arent willing to break them anyways, so I wouldnt be surprised if we here in FL are still able to get wines from out of state even if a law is passed.

        I dont understand your comment about "wineries" though. What about websites that have large varieties of wine at discount prices? I know there are a lot of them and they certainly arent "wineries".

        1. re: Blind Mind

          Don't get what you don't understand. A winery is a winery, a place that makes wine. The "websites that have large varieties of wine at discount prices" aren't wineries, they're distributors, and as such they have to have a warehouse in FLA to store their wines before shipping to the final consumer. As for discount prices, the largest of the wine selling websites (won't mention the name) has horrible pricing compared to what's on store shelves and what you could be the same product for at a wine shop in another state.

          1. re: lax2mia

            Need to be cautious about terminology. Those sites that have large varieties of wine at discount prices are technically not distributors. They are considered "retailers." Distributors are who we are fighting the battle with about wine shipments all around the US. Distributors want to control the wine shipments. Because if I ship a wine to you from my store in Washington state to you in Florida, then I am cutting out the middle man - - also known as the wholesale distributor.

        2. re: lax2mia

          I've been receiving quarterly shipments of two bottles of wine from Gloria Ferrer in California for the last two years without incident. I hope that these anti-free trade, protectionist bills are killed, but I fear that they will not be. Remember, the protectionism is not to protect Florida's wineries, but to protect the big, powerful, liquor, wine and beer distributors--the middlemen.

          As a lawyer, I am curious as to what "compelling state interest" the legislators are going to come up with to justify this legislation. In my view, these bills are clearly a violation of the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The problem is that with the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the United States Supreme Court said that it would give great deference to the individual states as to how they regulated the sale of alcoholic beverages. In other words, the usual standards applied to a commerce clause question would not be applied. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court will give more weight to the arguments of the state as to what constitutes a "compelling state interest" than it normally would. Bad news for wine drinkers! Still, these sorts of restrictions on interstate commerce are so antiquated--so 19th century--that I have hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down any restrictive sales laws, despite its historical inclination to defer to the states on the subject of alcohol.

          1. re: gfr1111

            Apparently the Massachusetts legislature passed a similar law to the bills that are floating around Florida and it's being challenged. Pending the outcome of that I'm still holding out hope.

            1. re: lax2mia

              There is similar legislation somewhere in the pipeline in Texas and Illinois. I really think that most wine consumers would be amazed and outraged at all this.

              A lot of the argument for these restrictions is 'legitimized' by the claim that under-age consumers can buy wine online....... except that every carrier requires a photo ID for properly labeled wine shipments and charges a hefty fee for checking (FedEx charges $3.50 per package). It's clearly the local distributors wanting to make sure they don't lose their cut.

            2. re: gfr1111

              How does the wine hold up after shipping in the Florida heat. I have 2 cases of Pinot I made with some people thru Crushpad. I haven't had them shipped because I thought the temps had to be in the 60-70's.

              1. re: Auger

                Auger - I'd love to hear about your Crushpad experience on this thread ->
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/479817

                I'm in Miami and always try to ship 2-day-air if possible and generally try not to ship before November or after March. Within these parameters I've not had any issues so far with cooked wines, even with ground shipping (though the folks I buy from generally watch temperatures and don't ship if it's too hot - we have plenty of days in the 80s even in "winter" here).

              2. re: gfr1111

                " I am curious as to what "compelling state interest" the legislators are going to come up with to justify this legislation"

                How about the protection of minor children? Or merely the protection of the ability of the state to maintain control in this pervasively regulated industry?

                It is really only the advent of e-commerce that has driven this debate. Twenty years ago, no one thought that there would be 15 year olds with credit cards who could order whatever they wanted over the Internet.

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  *How about the protection of minor children? Or merely the protection of the ability of the state to maintain control in this pervasively regulated industry?*

                  These were exactly the arguments raised to justify the complete prohibitions on direct shipment, and the Supremes didn't regard them as sufficient then and so are unlikely to do so now on their own.

                  The difficulty, though (for us who support unrestricted direct shipping), is that the prior laws were struck down by the Supremes because they treated in-state producers and out-of-state producers differently (in-state were allowed to direct-ship, out-of-state were not).

                  If a state puts the production cap for direct shipping at a level which is higher than any in-state winery's production, then the states will be able to argue that the laws are "even-handed" and don't discriminate against out-of-state wineries. If the law is not discriminatory against out-of-state producers, then I don't know that any compelling interest need be demonstrated.

                  1. re: Frodnesor

                    "Minor children, my b*tt"!! I've heard the same arguments, but I must say, as someone who has received wine at home, it's not an easy process for a kid to take part in or orchestrate.

                    You, a 21 year old adult with ID stating as much, MUST be home to sign for it (not always convenient) and if you miss your shipment, take heart that your wine is baking in the FED EX warehouse (and on the truck again) until they redeliver. Yummy!

                    If you are paying the not-so-economical shipping charges to bring said wine into your home, you are not a kid. Kids hang out in front of convenience stores trying to get guys to buy them 6 packs of beer....not decent wine. Patrol them, not the wine buyers looking for interesting vintages not available in the local wine markets.

                    There is currently too much wine available in the world marketplace to be represented by the current amount of distributors, we are currently bottled necked with a lot of great wines "unrepresented". The smaller wineries loose and the consumer loose, if this legislation passes.

              3. re: lax2mia

                In theory online retailers (other than wineries doing direct sales) are supposed to go through a FL distributor, but I'm dubious as to how often this really happens. Wine.com, which is one of the few to actually set up warehouses in each state that they ship to, did a "sting" of several online retailers a couple months ago ->

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/477578

                I do not believe you can (legally) ship hard liquor into the state.

                1. re: lax2mia

                  lax2mia-

                  I love Hanger One and tried having it shipped after having it in the Baltimore/DC area a few years back. No luck either.

                  FL has finally caught up and you can purchase it at Total Wine and Beverage and most Winn Dixies that stock liquor. FYI, in case you haven't seen it in your travels. The lime is a standard at our house!

                  Cheers!

                2. re: Blind Mind

                  I've had wine, beer and booze shipped all over the place...depending of course on who, what and where it is going.

                3. I see no cause for alarm - even if I lived in Florida. This bill should really have no effect on any true wine aficionado. The limit is 250,000 gallons per year (about 120,000 cases). Frankly I don't know any vineyard in whose wine I would be even remotely interested that makes so much wine.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: olasek

                    I agree. I found this nifty table online that shows case production from the top 30 wineries in 2006. Problem is there are some fairly popular wineries where you can purchase select wines solely through them via regular order or wine club (Bonny Doon is the one that comes to mind) that would get nixed in these bills. Also, should your favorite winery ever get bought out by a Constellation or Diageo, that's it. Even if the production of that winery is small case-wise, I believe they'd fall under the umbrella of their parent company and thus would be in jeopardy of hitting the 250K gallon limit.

                    http://www.winebusiness.com/specialse...

                    1. re: lax2mia

                      Thanks for the list. I was surprised for example to find Robert Mondavi in the 1,000,000 cases club. But my point is that according to my own experience wineries with below 50,000 cases offer the best value, most interesting wines, best service, etc.. And really very few of them get gobbled up by wine conglomerates, Ridge for example has been owned by a Japanese pharmaceutical company. But my main point is that with so much variety and competition in the wine market it is not hard to find excellent substitutes, I for example had no trouble finding alternative wine source after my favorite winery/club started charging too much. Only when someone insists on loyalty to a particular winery/brand there could be trouble.

                      1. re: olasek

                        Robert Mondavi is owned by Constellation Brands, which is at 57 million cases total. C. Mondavi is at 1 million - it sells Charles Krug.

                        Refering back to the orignal topic: There are reportedly something like 4,000 wineries in California alone,so lots of choices in the smaller winery arena, but I'm pretty sure that the legislation in Illinois doesn't allow any out-of-state RETAILER shipping at all. It also looks like Texas will be the same in the end, though the legal basis is different.

                      2. re: lax2mia

                        Bonny Doon has sold off its large-production "Big House" and "Cardinal Zin" lines and is going back to low-production wines.

                        I generally agree, though, that there are smaller wineries that are acquired by bigger brand "roll-ups" that may get caught by a gallon limit if the production of all wineries under the parent corp.'s umbrella are considered. For instance, Jade Mountain, Provenance, Hewitt, Orogeny, Canoe Ridge are probably all thought of as generally low-production wineries, but they're all owned by Diageo. Gary Farrell is owned by Beam Wine Estates (a spin-off from Allied Domecq). I think more wineries have been (and will be) gobbled up by conglomerates than many people think.

                        1. re: lax2mia

                          By the way, can you in Florida purchase wine from some out of state online wine retail store like for example the amazing-grapes, etc?

                          1. re: olasek

                            I have had no trouble purchasing from out-of-state online retailers - however, I have no idea whether they are all operating the way they're supposed to (see post above re wine.com "sting").

                        2. re: olasek

                          it affects those of us that wish to purchase wines from out of the country that are better purchased through a shop/distributor in another state because either it can't be found here in Florida or the price here in Florida is considerably higher. The exclusion allows you to purchase from the vineyard, not a shop or distributor.

                          1. re: karmalaw

                            Interstate wine shipments is a topic I could spend a day ranting about - but I will spare you all. As you know, some of the current shipping laws are a direct violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, ยง8, cl. 3 and the Twenty-First Amendment. And the truth is that alcohol wholesale/distributors around the country are violating this act every day.

                            To keep yourself updated on the laws within your state and/or if you would like to write your congressman here is a list of several sites to visit with more information about wine shipments. Please check out: We Want Wine Without Borders @ http://tinyurl.com/2ees7m

                            1. re: karmalaw

                              For those who would like to express their displeasure on the impending changes, this group provides a form letter and contact information to facilitate your communication to "the powers that be".

                              Here is the current FL letter and info:
                              http://capwiz.com/freegrapes/issues/a...

                              If you'd like to receive updates, sign up at http://www.freethegrapes.org/ I've been on the list for years, they only sent out updates when your state is doing something that might affect consumers.

                              1. re: winechic

                                This is how I found out about it. The Florida legislature also lets you sign up for tracking of bills. Create an account, enter the bills you want to follow (in this case numbers 1293, 693, 1096, and 1736) , and e-mails are sent when there is activity.

                                http://www.flhouse.gov/Sections/MyHou...

                          2. A hearing on the first of the four bills to restrict wine shipments is tomorrow. For all you Floridians who don't want restrictions on their right to order wine from across the country should act soon!

                            http://capwiz.com/freegrapes/issues/a...

                            1. Bill made it out of first committee on an 11-1 vote. We're going down.