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Free the Grape! Wine shipments to MA Massachusetts


I hope this doesn't get moved, as it is an MA specific post.

I've been trying to order some wines, ports, etc as Xmas gifts, and am finding over and over that the seller is out of state and cannot ship to me. Galling to find exactly what I want at a good price - and not be able to purchase it!

I think this restriction is wrong. I think I have the right to purchase the wines I want, in the manner of my choosing - whether by telephone, newsletter or Internet. I believe that consumers, not wholesaler middlemen, should decide which wines I can purchase.

If you agree with me, you might want to look at

MA is focal point of freethegrapes this year. "The legislature is now considering House Bill 294, a favorable bill that would replace an unconstitutional law with a proven solution."

Thank you
the freethegrapes site makes it very easy to contact your rep online, with a suggested and editable text, and can locate your reps by your address.

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  1. Yes, this is an important MA topic. Seems we can pass gay marriage, free the grey hound and free the weed, save the foie, yet still cannot free the grape. It's a lobbyist game that has gone on far too long. Hopefully soon. Shipping the grape is rather expensive, but it would be nice to have the option.

    1. Does this apply to spirits as well? Either way, I'm all for it. Super frustrating to not be able to order stuff that's not distributed here.

      3 Replies
      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        They would probably gain much more support if it at least included beer too given the popularity of craft beer these days.

        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          It's unclear (to me, at least). But even the bill that this group is pushing for passage of does not provide a simple open market. It would require any winery that wants to ship to Mass to buy a license from the state.

          1. re: BobB

            Legislative progress is an incremental game.

        2. Please consider going to the site and emailing your reps - the freethegrapes site makes it very easy and can locate your reps by your address.
          I wondered about the spirits issue too - but at least this would be some improvement.


          1 Reply
          1. re: angelaangel

            Done. It's a helpful link, thank you for sharing. Here's to its success!

          2. The law's been like this for decades. Totally stupid but, then hey it's MA.

            6 Replies
            1. re: treb

              "hey it's MA."

              If we're not greasing someone's palm, WE'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!!!

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                Or: voters in MA prefer to have laws restricting free will and free market, because they know what's best for the masses who cannot otherwise be trusted.

                1. re: Niblet

                  Yeah, that sounds like the right mindset for a Massachusetts uber-liberal.

                    1. re: Madrid

                      As long as others' enjoyment of wine is properly controlled by Big Brother, there's no problem :-)

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I disagree. It,s the economic interests of distributors and liquor store owners and their lobbying efforts holding this back. There are lots of entrenched interests in this state that don,t have much to with liberalism. Not to mention the Puritan background culture! Everyone should be able to purchase and enjoy the wine we like! No one is trying to stop the purchase of those awful gallon jug wines.

            2. I don't know if this entirely legal or not, and I won't name the state, but I have had wine shipped to me in MA as a gift by a relative who lives in the same state as the winery. It hasn't been a problem for years. so might be a point of origin issue?

              so frustrating.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Madrid

                I believe it's illegal, but I have never had a problem with receiving anything -- when I could get it shipped in.

                Examples: My father ships me wine from CA every year during the holidays, I've shipped myself stuff from trips on numerous occasions, and I used to know of a couple of online stores that didn't have their shipping rules properly configured. My packages always arrive without incident.

                The problem is that proper retail outlets tend to want to obey the law, and so they refuse to ship to us... And I can't blame 'em. They can be heavily fined if caught.

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Yes, you can get around the law if you ship it yourself. I am not sure what the penalty is if caught.

                  Not a single Vineyard I visited in Napa would ship wine to Mass, even the smaller/less known ones. Ended up shipping myself a few bottles but the one club I joined ships it to relative the next state over. PIA

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    Etude used to ship to me in Mass as part of their wine club. I ended up quiting the club when it became a pain to keep up with the shipments.

              2. It is a crazy rule. But- my boss belongs to a wine club (CA vineyard), and has wine and other products shipped all the time, with no issues. I wonder why some places ships. We have asked the UPS guy- and he said it was illegal, but he did handle lots of wine shipments.

                1 Reply
                1. re: macca

                  LOL UPS smuggling hooch to stay in business!

                2. and while we are it, how come I can't walk into all groceries store and buy a bottle of wine or some beer to enjoy with my dinner? Limiting each grocery store company to just a few wine/beer licenses (is it 3 or 4?) for the entire state makes no sense unless you are a package store owner trying to protect your turf. A checkout clerk at a grocery store can be trained just like the checkout clerk at a liquor store to review IDs. It is not rocket science.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Gordough

                    This was put to the vote in 2008 as Question 1 on the ballot and MA voters rejected it. Very effective lobbying by package store owners and police among others. I asked a friend of mine why on earth he would vote against it and he said, "because supermarkets would only sell plonk wine anyway." This can't have been a representive argument for those opposing the measure (I hope not), but this explanation -- and ballot outcome -- still frustrates me.

                    P.S. He and I are no longer friends (which is a shame because he obviously has good taste in wine!)

                    1. re: Gordough

                      The limit is now 5. It will be 7 in 2016 and 9 in 2020.

                      Any limit is patently stupid.

                      1. re: Gordough

                        No kidding. Every grocery store I shop at regularly has a package store in the parking lot, but whenever I visit my family in Seattle, I realize how much easier it could be.

                      2. We've had wine shipped to us directly from the vineyard. It probably wasn't legal (was packed in a nondescript box with no mention of a vineyard on the return label.) We've also had wine shipped to a liquor store in Waltham thru Stanford University's wine club. It's a hassle, but it's possible.

                        This is a very weird state we live in. I'd gladly trade all the new casinos they are proposing for a loosening of the wine shipping laws.

                        1. Yes, I also know of people who have received wine etc through delivery services. Often the package is unmarked. One online place in CA abiding by the law asked me if I had an address for any other NE state - except NH. (I didn't and could not buy).
                          This is a good time to email your reps. The testimony has been heard, I think, and reps are deliberating.

                          1. This is all so confusing to me as I joined a wine club from a vineyard in Sonoma County, CA several years ago and I have been receiving cases of wine from them two times per year. The wine is delivered by FedEx and the boxes are clearly marked as containing alcohol/wine. I do not know if this is true, but when I joined the wine club I asked them if they could ship to MA and they said yes because they were a small vineyard that produced under a certain amount of bottles per year and did not deal with a distributor, that they were allowed to ship to MA.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bakerboyz

                              Either you or the vineyard is in violation of MA law. While it is true that wineries can sell directly to consumers in MA, they must hold a farmer-winery license to do so.

                              Part of the reason that these rule are often overlooked is because the penalties are not huge. I believe the maximum fine for importing without a license is $1000. Combine that with the relatively small probability that the MA AG will notice or care about some podunk winery selling a case of wine illegally, and you have an invitation to ignore the rule. Not to mention the question of jurisdiction--which party is violating which state's law? If the "sale" is ruled to have occurred in CA, then MA law doesn't affect the winery at all--just you!

                              As a common carrier, FedEx is generally exempt from liability for importing alcohol, which is why they happily deliver the wine to you.

                            2. Yes, I also used to get things from a great place called Tinamou in CA, run by Frenchmen. "Tinamou is in the golden position of having ancient zoning in Sonoma which allows the importer and distributor to sell to the public. " Tinamou seems to be no longer in business...it really is confusing, and it just doesn't have to be.

                              1. This is an old topic that has been discussed here and elsewhere ad naseum for decades. The fact is that we have a cartel of folks in MA who have import licenses, and a very powerful political lobby, and they will allow nothing to get in the way of their control (profiteering) on the import of alcohol to our state. Believe me, it has been tried, and tried again and again and again to no avail.

                                Sad reality of money in politics.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: aregularjoe

                                  the issue isn't about imports, but state-to-state shipping. it's the wholesalers putting up the fight.

                                  having done plenty of consulting over the last year, most wineries still have mass on the no-ship list.

                                  the law isn't set in stone and so for most it's simply not worth the possibility of fines or worse.

                                2. It has been my impression that shipments into the state have been legal since 2010. But only Fedex has bothered to do the necessary paperwork, and there is a slight confusion about limits. At the end of the day I think this is a solved problem. http://www.wineinstitute.org/currente...

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: bhyde

                                    If you follow the links at that site to FedEx and UPS, neither one lists Mass as a state to which they ship wine, and FedEx specifically states that they don't ship wine to Mass.

                                    1. re: CportJ

                                      Interesting as for the past two years I have been receiving wine shipments from FedEx.

                                      1. re: CportJ

                                        CportJ, I'm confused - my reading of:


                                        leads me to believe that CA->MA shipments via fedex ground are supported.

                                        1. re: bhyde

                                          Hmm...so FedEx Ground will ship but FedEx Express (using planes I guess?) will not? Not sure why Ground would be OK but Express would not be, but not surprised either, given this ridiculous state of affairs.

                                          I just ordered from a winery in Sonoma, and Mass. was on their No Ship list. I think they had shipped to Mass. in between the 2010 decision and now, so I'm not sure what changed for them, but it just goes to show that it's still a problem.

                                    2. I don't believe the problem has been solved, if, as happened this week, I see online something I want in CA and the seller cannot ship it to me because I am in MA. As you note, there was a reprieve of sorts in 2010 - which is the date of the link you included - but that measure has expired.

                                      "It wasn’t until 2010 that the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Family Winemakers of California v. Jenkins that Massachusetts’s own law against the shipment of out-of-state wines was similarly unconstitutional.[3] Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley decided to abide by the First Circuit’s ruling rather than appeal.[4] The state legislature made a quick initial response, with Senator Robert O’Leary and Representative David Torrisi introducing legislation to bring the General Laws into conformity with the court’s decision.[5]
                                      But, that was three years ago. The O’Leary-Torrisi bill expired...."

                                      1. My Mom gifted us a case of wine from a WSJ wine group and it arrived at our door! Maybe because she ordered from out of state and shipped here?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Science Chick

                                          It probably survived because the shipper wasn't a winery. Consider yourself lucky.

                                          1. re: treb

                                            Well, it was an experiment on her part and the wines were pretty bad! So, in the end, I'm not sure how lucky we actually were! ;)

                                            1. re: Science Chick

                                              your mom isn't a wine producer, nor was she selling you the wine.

                                        2. Friend shipped wine unbeknownst via UPS to us in MA just last week. It got all the way to our doorstep, when the delivery person figured out it was alcohol. We got this note:
                                          "Unauthorized alcohol shipment. Unable to complete delivery or return to sender. UPS will contact shipper. / Unauthorized alcohol shipment was discovered. Unable to deliver or return due to regulatory requirements."
                                          So 7 bottles of nice vino went to UPS holiday party. Hope they enjoy it!

                                          4 Replies
                                            1. re: Chikklinlittle

                                              Fwiw, I get the sense that FedEx is the preferred carrier of amateur bootleggers. Not sure if this is because of their policies or their prices though.

                                              1. re: emannths

                                                Fedex ground did the paper work - so they can ship. UPS didn't.

                                              2. My wines come from Bella Vineyard and Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA. The wines are delicious. There is usually about a 6 month-1 year wait to get off of their wait list. FedEx makes the deliveries. Website is bellawinery.com. Fyi, also my favorite vineyard to visit when in Sonoma County.

                                                1. Found this wikipedia site that may explain the Mass rules: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_shipping_laws_in_the_United_States
                                                  Hope it helps!

                                                  1. http://m.wcvb.com/news/wine-drinkers-...

                                                    I've been out of town a lot lately and had not heard of this previously.

                                                    1. Some useful perspective and details on the changes to the law, which don't take effect until Jan 2015: http://www.wellesleywinepress.com/201...


                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        This just out today...
                                                        Wine drinkers toast new direct shipping law: http://www.wcvb.com/news/wine-drinker... (not a link
                                                        ) Well, once posted the URL was blue like a link, so maybe it is!

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Not sure this will change much. Wineries will need to set up accounts in the state and pay excise tax and other fees.

                                                          1. re: treb

                                                            They have to do that for other states as well, already, and they because $150/yr is a no-brainer. This changes a lot.

                                                            There are wineries that already ship here- ones that are tiny enough- the rest can now as well.

                                                            1. re: Spelunker

                                                              Back in the day, I used to get a lot from CA, can't to see if they will ship here again.