Lawmakers Still Mulling Direct Wine Shipment
Bill Held Up In Senate Committee
February 4, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Despite overwhelming support for a direct wine shipment bill at the State House, opponents said don't pop the corks just yet.
The issue has been through an exhaustive study and debate, and it's still being held up in the Senate.
Consumers said they want Maryland to join 37 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing direct wine shipments from vineyards to their homes.
"It's almost like they have a monopoly on it. It's like, 'If we don't want you to have it, you can't get it.' Let free enterprise flow," said D.C. resident Robert Washington.
Direct wine shipping legislation has 83 co-sponsors in the House, including Speaker Michael Busch, and 32 supporters in the Senate who are for the bill that would also allow Maryland wineries and retailers to ship.
"It's basically asking for a free market in wine," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County, who is sponsoring the bill.
But Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway holds the corkscrew. She said she wants to tweak the bill, and she has the power to do that because she's the chair of the committee where the bill gets heard.
"At this juncture, I can't say that we have made a definite decision on how the bill will look," Conway said.
Wine is currently shipped in Maryland to an in-state wholesaler, who sells it to a distributor, who then delivers it to retailers.
Bill opponents, including the state's powerful liquor lobby, argue that it would hurt retailers.
Some in the business said that direct shipping can be expensive. They said it's really for wine connoisseurs, since Maryland carries most of the popular brands.
"You can pay anywhere from $40 to $80 in shipping. So, your prices will be significantly higher by shipping it to yourself than buying it from a local store. What most people want to do -- they want to get the collectables," said Peter Finkelstein, of Mills Fine Wine Store.
A recent study by the Maryland comptroller's office dismissed concerns that it would increase underage drinking, harm local businesses or undermine state tax returns.
"A free market in wine is in the public's interest," Raskin said.
The House is considering a similar bill, which is expected to pass.