Marylanders May Finally Get Wine in the Mail
By Joanna Sullivan
Baltimore Business Journal Staff
Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 2:53pm EST
Maryland wine lovers gained some ammunition in their battle against the state’s ban on direct shipping of wine to consumers.
A new report by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office supports allowing in-state and out-of-state wineries to ship wine directly to buyers. The report though does not call for allowing out-of-state retailers to do the same. It also debunks arguments that direct shipping would encourage underage drinking or create tax loopholes. The report said that didn’t happen in the 37 states and Washington, D.C., where direct shipping is allowed.
The issue has been a contentious one, with state wine and beer wholesalers arguing that direct shipments would break down the state’s three-tiered system of distributors, wholesalers and retailers.
Nick Manis, deputy director for the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association, said his group must first see legislation that addresses direct shipping before it takes a stance on the issue. He had only reviewed the report's executive summary and wasn't ready to comment.
As for impact on his members, he said it will affect wholesalers. But he's not sure how much just yet.
"Hopefully, it won't have a dramatic impact on our business," he said. "But only time will tell."
The Maryland Wineries Association cheered the report's findings. The state's wineries have been seeking a change in the law since 1981.
"We know from our peers in other states, that the ability to ship wine to customers grows winery revenues by 15-20 percent," said Ed Boyce, owner of Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy.
Adam Borden, who heads Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, is relieved the comptroller’s report is the first step in convincing the General Assembly to change the law in the upcoming legislative session.
He, however, was disappointed the report did not call for retailers to be able to ship directly to consumers. He said that will keep wine aficionados from getting many imported wines that aren’t available in the state.
“We are really excited the comptroller has taken a leadership position in addressing an issue that has been contentious and long overdue,” Borden said. “Our top priority is resolving the issue on shipping.”
The report called for:
• Establishing a direct wine shipper’s permit. It would cost $100 and another $100 to renew it. A shipper must obtain a minimum $1,000 tax bond.
• Allow direct wine shipment for in-state and out-of-state wineries but not for out-of-state retailers.
• Require direct wine shippers to file quarterly tax returns.
• Require common carriers — those that deliver the wine — to file quarterly reports.
• Require direct wine shippers and common carriers to affix a shipping label that reads “Contains alcohol; Signature of Person Age 21 or Older Required for Delivery.”