Statute of Inebriation

Planning to woo your Valentine this year with a nice Washington state Chardonnay bought online or from a catalog? Fat chance.Under current Wisconsin law, only California wineries may sell directly to our consumers – drastically limiting the choices for Dairy State online purchasers.Last fall, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a measure that would have let any state ship wine directly to consumers here if: the wineries bought a permit (cost: $10 to $100, depending on volume); followed prescribed procedures; and shipped no more than 108 liters a year to any one buyer.But the bill also would have prohibited Wisconsin wineries from…

Planning to woo your Valentine this year with a nice Washington state Chardonnay bought online or from a catalog? Fat chance.

Under current Wisconsin law, only California wineries may sell directly to our consumers – drastically limiting the choices for Dairy State online purchasers.

Last fall, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed a measure that would have let any state ship wine directly to consumers here if: the wineries bought a permit (cost: $10 to $100, depending on volume); followed prescribed procedures; and shipped no more than 108 liters a year to any one buyer.

But the bill also would have prohibited Wisconsin wineries from selling directly to retail shops, forcing them to go through wholesalers. Currently, in-state wineries are exempt from a law requiring winemakers to sell only to wholesalers, which then sell to stores, bars and restaurants.

Wisconsin wineries protested the bill. Charles McGonegal, who owns AEppelTreow Winery, a small cider and wine maker in Kenosha County, says the change would likely have killed niche products if a wholesaler wasn’t interested or didn’t know how to nurture the brand. In his veto message, Doyle said the change could “have stifling economic effects on the small wineries.”

Meanwhile, three states previously had reciprocal agreements with Wisconsin that allowed direct shipping of wine to consumers. But a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires states to treat all liquor businesses (in-state or out) equally, forcing states to rewrite their laws. After Washington and Oregon imposed new regulations on direct shipping to their consumers from out-of-state wineries, Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue scratched those states off its “reciprocal” list. That left only California, which still meets Wisconsin’s standards. As for the other 48 states, the law is clear: No direct shipping for Badger sipping.

 

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