Wine lovers in Massachusetts, rejoice.
A provision in the new state budget lifts a longstanding prohibition on direct deliveries from wineries to consumers.
Starting in January 2015, Bay State residents 21 years of age and older can purchase wine directly from wineries licensed by the state to ship.
It follows a spirited campaign by out-of-state producers and customers that recently received a major endorsement from former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who operates a winery in Washington state.
As one of the top five states in wine drinking, many Massachusetts residents will likely welcome having a more direct way to acquire their favorite brands. But not everyone is uncorking a bottle of Champagne to celebrate.
Some Boston-based liquor store and specialty wine shop owners and managers worry about losing business.
Mark Youngblood, 31, is a manager at The Wine Emporium on Tremont Street. He told Boston.com that he sees two sides to the new bill: “I think it’s good for the consumer to have direct access to stuff we aren’t able to get, but it releases control from stores like us.”
Youngblood said he and other employees haven’t talked much about the implications of the provision, but he said The Wine Emporium relies heavily on foot traffic, so the new system could pose a problem for the store’s revenue.
“As a wine lover, I’m pretty stoked,” Youngblood said. “As a business owner, I see the downside.”
Torrance Kilcoyne, manager at Top Shelf Boston, said he isn’t too worried about the new provision, calling his wine shop a “neighborhood store” that relies on local support. If anything, Kilcoyne said the bill was a good thing for business: “If we don’t have what people want, we want to at least be able to tell you where and how to get it,” he said.
Others have voiced concern about deliveries being made to underage drinkers, but the law requires that wine packages say “contains alcohol” and be signed for by people over 21.
Youngblood said he thought it would be difficult to prevent underage consumers from signing for wine deliveries, describing the law’s provisions as “silly.”
According to Free The Grapes, an industry-backed group from Napa, California, direct wine shipping occurs in all but nine other states.
Jeremy Benson, a spokesperson for Free the Grapes, told the AP that wine lovers from Massachusetts had “been among the most vocal” of those states with direct shipping bans.
The bill will overturn a “decade-long effort to overturn an archaic ban,” according to the Free The Grapes website.
The budget language is based on the model direct shipping bill being used successfully by the majority of US states. It requires wineries to apply for a state-issued shipping license, to mark boxes as requiring signature at delivery, to pay taxes, and to limit the quantity of wine shipped to individuals.
Domestic wine producers must initially pay $300 for a direct shipper’s license, with a $150 renewal fee every year. Shippers, under the new law, may deliver no more than 12 cases of wine to each person in a year.