It’s not easy to earn unanimous approval of a major policy change in the wine industry, but the issue of alcohol mail restrictions seems to have achieved exactly that. Senator Chuck Schumer is proposing to end the ban that prevents the United States Postal Service from shipping wine, beer, and spirits. After speaking to dozens of industry professionals, the New York Cork Report has yet to find one who disagrees with the proposal.
“It would be huge for our industry,” said Scott Osborn, owner of Fox Run Vineyards. “Having the postal service as another provider for our shipping will hopefully lower shipping rates.”
“Let’s get rid of the vestiges of prohibition and hypocrisy,” said Bob Madill, Wine Director at Red Newt Cellars and General Manager of Sheldrake Point. “What is wrong with free trade? Shipping wine with the postal service as we would anything else will make a big difference to the Finger Lakes and to all — all — New York wine producers.”
“Shipping by the USPS makes such sense,” said Ted Marks, owner of Atwater Estate Vineyards. “The convenience to us wineries here in the rural part of the state is obvious.”
Those in the retail side of the business agree.
“The price for shipping wine through FedEx has to have a direct impact on the volume of wine sold out of state,” said Kristin Vanden Brul, former owner of Wine Sense in Rochester. “I had to use UPS when I shipped wine from my former store. The cost for shipping often stopped customers from proceeding with the purchase. I ordered wine from Washington State this summer and they never disclosed that they would be sending it through FedEx overnight. It cost me $10 per bottle to ship two cases. I was not a happy camper.”
“I would venture to say that the biggest impediment to direct-to-customer sales, via the internet or phone, is the cost of shipping,” said Brittany Morris, wine club director for Fulkerson Winery. “If a consumer orders six bottles of wine at $10 per bottle, when all is said and done, even with a quantity discount, shipping costs could equate to approximately $25-$35 — depending on the shipping destination — on a purchase of approximately $55 of wine.”
August Deimel, winemaker for Keuka Spring Vineyards, offered a note of caution that this proposal would not be a panacea. “This is not enough to change very much by itself,” Deimel said. “Yes, it would help to lower prices for shipping, which is a major problem. But it is not THE major problem. Much more significant is the thicket of crazed state regulations. Consider that Maryland is a state that wineries may ship to. But if you want to ship to Maryland you have to get a direct shipping license for 50 bucks, take out a $1000 bond and then send them an excise tax form every month whether or not you sell any wine that month. And Maryland does not have a reputation for being particularly restrictive. A real game changer would be a national direct shipping law that superseded state laws. Nobody (maybe until now) has ever said, ‘If only we could ship via USPS, everything would be dandy.'”
After a conference call, USA Today quoted Senator Schumer as saying, “It’ll help keep local post offices open by bringing in an estimated $225 million in new revenues to the USPS, and it will be a new way for consumers far and wide to order their favorite beers and wines.”
The proposal could get through the Senate and stall in the House, but Schumer has indicated a sense of urgency to see it through. NYCR will continue to follow its progress.