By Evan Dawson, Managing Editor

VintankIf you care, even a little, about New York State wines, you need to follow the developments of HR 5034, a bill that Congress could address this year.There is already a wealth of background reporting on the bill, but we'll sum up the bill this way: It's written by the wholesalers and small wine producers are concerned that it could destroy their business by eventually making it illegal for consumers to get wine directly from the winery.

Want to buy wine from California? Opponents of the bill fear it won't be that easy if HR 5034 passes.

  Our friends at Vintank in Napa have done a great service by interviewing Craig Wolf, president of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. I urge you to listen to the whole thing.

Here are my quick takes:

  1. Wolf and wholesalers think wine drinkers have enough choice already. We don't need to worry about losing small producers because we have so damn much choice as it is! Compare wine to other interests and we should just be satisfied with the market even if we lose some wines. I'm not sure what constitutes enough choice, but apparently we're already there.
  2. Wolf says wholesalers are looking for ways to get more small producers to hook up with small wholesalers. Problem is, HR 5034 could hurt the little guys before they can make such a link. It's backward. One would assume that if WSWA were concerned about the health of small wine producers, they would create these partnerships before pushing for legislation that might threaten their livelihood. (And by the way, there are plenty of small wine producers who have no interest in changing the way they interact with customers.)
  3. Wolf admits that when it comes to kids buying alcohol, wine isn't the problem. This has been a consistent canard trotted out in this debate — it's for the children! He concedes the point that minors in Ohio aren't ordering Heart & Hands Pinot through the mail directly, yet he thinks wine should be grouped in with beer and spirits just the same in new legislation.
Smarter folks than myself will have more to say about the ShipCompliant issue, and there's a lot of meat in this interview. And we applaud Paul Mabray of Vintank for conducting a direct interview without animosity. It's a super-charged issue and we need more conversations like this one to understand what's really going on.