…or German wine, or Canadian wine, or Greek wine…
As of May 14, 2015, residents of Pennsylvania may find themselves hard pressed to get their hands on their favorite champagnes, Bordeaux wines, and even Sauvignon Blanc hailing from New Zealand. With the passing of House Bill 189, the sale and shipment of any international wines has become prohibited in Pennsylvania.
According to a press release from the National Association of Wine Retailers, this bill effectively bans 60% of the wine approved for sale in the United States from being available to residents in Pennsylvania. They speculate this bill may generate litigation concerning discrimination against foreign wineries. The following statement was made by NAWR’s Executive Director, Tom Wark:
“America’s wine retailers, not wineries, are consumers’ only source of French, German, Spanish, Italian as well as all other imported, including Australian, New Zealand, Chilean, Argentinean, Canadian and South African wines. Banning out-of-state retailers from shipping into Pennsylvania while only allowing domestic wineries to ship is not only a slap in the face to American retailers, but represents a complete and total disregard for Pennsylvania consumers who expect the long awaited direct wine shipping rights to give them access to all wines—Not just those made in North America.
Equally important, since auction houses that sell rare and hard to find wines and Wine-of-the-Month clubs are classified as retailers, these services would also be off limits to Pennsylvania wine lovers. And since most Kosher wines are produced outside the country, these too would largely be banned from the direct shipment channel.
“Additionally, we believe responsible lawmakers ought to be concerned with the Constitutional and free trade problems raised by the impending ban on the sales and shipments of all non-domestic wines. Banning the sale and shipment of an entire class of wines (imported wines) in favor of another class of wines will only invite lawsuits—as well it should.
“The NAWR urges the Pennsylvania Senate to pass a genuine wine shipping bill that allows shipment of both domestic and imported wines by allowing consumers to purchase from both out of state wineries and out-of-state retailers. If the Pennsylvania Senate follow the path of the House and passes a blatantly discriminatory bill likely to be challenged in court, Pennsylvanians will not have direct shipment access to any wines.”
Originally the bill was set up as a promise to wine consumers that they would finally have that long-awaited privilege of having out of state wineries ship to them directly. However, as bills are wont to do, it evolved and changed into its current, quite prohibitive, state.
Bad for consumers
I don’t need to tell you that this bill is bad for consumers and wine connoisseurs. As Mr. Wark states above, it cuts Pennsylvania residents out of the ability to pursue their own cellar building activities at auctions and other venues. It also makes it so specialty wines may not be at all available to the demographics wishing to consume them.
HB 189 is also bad for businesses
Businesses will be hard-pressed to provide for the demands of consumers. With the sale and shipment of imported wines effectively banned, they will be forced to sell a smaller variety of wines, thus making it harder for them to compete with neighboring states for wine sales. It’s a bad deal all around.
I’m hard pressed to see how this bill is supposed to help customers (or businesses) in Pennsylvania. I can see it being a deterrent for those who wish to relocate to the state, particularly if they are lovers of imported wines. Like Mr. Wark, I believe that this bit of legislation will lead to litigation. A revision that allows for the import and direct sales and shipment of wines to customers – a privilege enjoyed by many residing in other states – will help boost Pennsylvania’s economy.
What are your opinions on this new bill? Do you support it? Do you think there are other problems with it not mentioned? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.