Monday, July 25, 2011

Shipping Maryland Wine

Maryland wineries have been fighting some archaic alcohol laws within the state. The state is making headway, but what appears to be an easy fix on the surface is never quite so straight forward at its root.

During the last legislative session, Maryland lawmakers agreed to lift the 78-year ban on shipping wine to or from the state. The ban not only prevented residents from receiving wine shipments, it also prevented wineries from the ability to ship their wine to wine competitions. From a purely economic standpoint, the state had much to lose. The ability of Maryland wines to place well in large wine competitions could only enhance Maryland wine sales and, in the process, tax coffers.

The ban was lifted as of July 1. In my simple mind, I expected that everyone would suddenly be able to ship whatever they wanted however they wanted. If only. First, the United States Postal Service does not allow shipping of alcohol ever. So my first thought of simply mailing a box of our wine to ourselves in Washington needed to be revised. Maybe I’d have to use UPS.

Next, the new law requires a permit in order to ship wine. For wineries to ship to a residence in Maryland, they must pay $200 for a permit. Individuals are not allowed to ship wine themselves. Retail wine-of-the-month clubs also remain banned.

Finally, each state to which the wine is shipped may also require a shipper’s permit. For Washington, the winery would be required to pay $200 per year to ship to individual residences. Since the Washington market for Port of Leonardtown wine isn’t likely to be much larger than Peter and me, securing a permit seems to be out of the question. (If you’re interested in learning more, the Wine Institute hosts an excellent website with information about all the states.

Instead, I will continue to hand carry my Port of Leonardtown wine in my checked luggage each time I return to Seattle. I also won’t promise a bottle of Maryland wine to any of my friends anymore. If you want it, you’ll have to meet me in Maryland.

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