Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Mother of Direct Shipping

I'm afraid I was too distracted to note properly the passing of a very important person in the lives of wine enthusiasts everywhere -- Juanita Swedenburg. Juanita was a Virginia vintner who had enough of the frustratingly restrictive wine shipping laws so common across much of the country. As a consequence, she became the catalyst behind the case that would go to the Supreme Court in 2005 and begin to unravel many of the restrictions.

These archaic laws would have fallen eventually, but they fell a lot sooner because Swedenburg was a person of clear vision and mental toughness. She took on a very powerful wholesalers alliance in getting her case to the Supreme Court. And, we all owe her a debt of gratitude.

The hodgepodge of state laws that govern wine shipping have not gone away totally. But the Swedenburg case helped usher in a much saner era, since the decision requires states allowing in-state wineries to ship direct to consumers to also allow out-of-state wineries to ship direct to consumers. No more different standards for in-state wineries vs. out of state. Most states responded by opening up their borders to distant wineries, the dream of wine collectors everywhere. A few states went the opposite way in their bid to find equanimity.

Connecticut's wine shipping laws, though not perfect, have changed for the better since the Supreme Court decision, and I know I have Swedenburg, who died on June 9, to thank for it.

I was concerned last year when a couple of out-of-state wineries told me that, though they are legally allowed to ship to Connecticut they would not do so because of exhorbitant licensing fees required by the state. I was perturbed, since the state seemed to be undercutting the sale of out-of-state wines to consumers without actually banning them.

But the state has clarified its position since then, allowing small production wineries (less than 100,000 gallons per year) to pay roughly $350 for permits and licenses. And, consumers are now allowed up to five gallons of wine instead of four gallons.

It's better than it used to be. And, Swedenburg helped make it so. Bless her.


Anonymous Tony D said...

Thank you Juanita.

10:26 PM  

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