Red, red wine.

Credit: iStockphoto via NPR

Vino Commerce Coming to Taxachusetts

July 21, 2014

I’m generally a glass half empty person-- unless it’s a glass of wine.

But full glass or no, I may have many more options for what I’m pouring into my glass. State lawmakers finally approved a bill allowing Massachusetts consumers to receive direct shipments from out of state wineries.

This is much more than a chance for ardent wine drinkers like me to stock their wine racks. Wine sippers and teetotalers alike will enjoy the benefits of this new source of tax revenue. Under the new law, Massachusetts will collect excise fees from any domestic wine producer shipping to the state --$300 for a direct shipper’s license, and an annual $150 renewal fee. Consumers can purchase 12 cases of wine a year for personal consumption only. The state’s bottom line stands to be greatly enhanced because Massachusetts boosts one of the nation’s highest per capita wine consumption.

But, there’s still a big sticking point. Shippers like Fed Ex and UPS would have to pay $200 per truck permit fee if that truck is delivering wine—that’s $200 for each truck in a fleet of thousands. Obviously not cost effective. So unless a legislative fix happens, wine lovers would be able to order the wine, but not get it delivered.

Nevertheless passing the wine bill has loosened the firm grip of the powerful liquor lobby protecting liquor store owners afraid of losing customers. But I honestly don’t think local wine purveyors should panic. I’m guessing most wine drinkers who use direct shipping will continue to frequent favorite wine stores for the personal service and instant gratification of buying local. Plus, local retailers will profit from a new category of sales, since liquor stores here will be able to ship wine from Massachusetts, something previously forbidden.

No question local wine aficionados clamor to sample the highly touted out of state wines, what one called “cool, funky, small producers’ wines.” And, some of our wines will fit the bill for fans in other states: from Turtle Creek’s award winning Chardonnay to Truro Vineyards luscious Triumph Meritage, to the frozen picked sweetness of Still River’s Apple Ice wine, Massachusetts’ top flight vineyards produce excellent wines.

This is the wrong time to blow off a potential steady source of revenue. Wine is all the rage --the fictional wine geeks in the movie Sideways would be shocked to learn that the US is now a bigger wine market than France! And, more than a third of Americans now prefer wine over beer---that includes the trend setting millennials.

I hope our lawmakers hear the ka ching in those stats, and straighten out the delivery truck. They’ve got a few months before the wine law takes effect on January 1.  Maybe we’ll still be known as Taxachusetts, but a little vino commerce can go a long way to ease the pain. Cheers!

Callie Crossley is the host of Under the Radar.


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