Red Tape and Wine – An Unpalatable Blend

This is the time of year when I begin to worry that perhaps I need to be medicated.  I come off the heady, frenetic pace of harvest and crush, the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and run headlong into the mire of alcohol-related bureaucracy.  Come January 1, my feet are trapped in the greedy goo of countless reports demanded from a juggernaut of government agencies.  A dark cloud descends over my entire countenance.  Instead of bottling volumes of wine, I’m bottling volumes of red tape.

Every state has a different permitting and licensing process.  Reports must be filed, varying taxes must be paid, permits and licenses must be renewed.  Exporters require their own special documents.  Federal paperwork must be filled out and data must be collected.  Accountants, lawyers, and licensing specialists must be engaged and paid to file and report on our behalf.

As a small winery, I’m the guy who also needs to source all of our glass, capsules, labels (with their concomitant bureaucracy), boxes, and closures.  One could consider these activities equally mind-numbing, but at least they have a direct correlation to the end goal of producing our product, a bottle of wine.

Just as I don’t need to hear actors expounding on foreign policy, you probably don’t care to hear a winemaker talk politics.  But I can’t help but start to feel pretty libertarian at this time of year.  I realize we have some need for alcohol regulation, but honestly, this is ridiculous.  Did you know that we cannot legally ship directly to customers in 12 of our 50 states?  Much of state regulation still contains vestiges of prohibition laws and/or is designed to protect excise taxes and distributor rights.  How does any of this benefit the consumer?

Customers, who have tried our wines elsewhere, frequently ask me why our wine is not available in their states.  My answer is simple, either it’s not legal to ship direct-to-consumer in the state, or the cost to set-up licensing, permitting, etc. in their state is economically prohibitive.  There’s a great website that addresses this topic:   http://freethegrapes.org/.  If you’re feeling like a 60’s activist today, you can use it to quickly let your legislators know that you’d like to see changes in these regulations.

And at the end of the day, none of this does much to improve the quality of our product, and it certainly doesn’t reduce prices, nor stimulate the economy.  Thanks, but no thanks, Uncle Sam.

Rant over…cloud already lifting….

Andrew

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2 Responses to Red Tape and Wine – An Unpalatable Blend

  1. I agree with you Andrew, regulations on some level is important with balance. I believe some adjustments to archaic laws should be revisited.

    After living three years in a blue law State, I’m so appreciative to live in a wine liberated State. In Texas, you cannot purchase alcohol on Sunday before noon in a restaurant, unless there is food on the table. In some counties you cannot buy beer/wine after midnight, but you can drive to a bar and drink till 2 am, then drive home. Some are dry, and you have to drive to another county to make a wine/beer purchase. No logic from my perspective in some of these laws.

    I support Free The Grapes, but would likely be more vocal if I did not live in CA.

  2. Keynes says:

    I’m sure it’s frustrating as a producer, but looking at the California wine industry, it’s hard to see how regulation is slowing it down.

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