Free the Grapes! Fate of Wine Direct Shipping in Wisconsin Rests with Conference Committee, Governor

From the Free the Grapes! press release:

For 20 years, Wisconsin’s wine lovers have been able to purchase wine directly from wineries licensed to do so, as well as from in-state wine retailers. But consumers will lose these privileges if the Budget Bill passes as it is currently written, according to Free the Grapes!, the national consumer grassroots coalition (

“These anti-consumer provisions were slipped into the Senate version of the 384-page, $66 billion, two-year Budget Bill, rather than being considered in the light of day,” said Jeremy Benson, executive director, Free the Grapes! The association is encouraging consumers to visit its website at and use the website to send personalized letters to state legislators and Governor Doyle. The organization points out three provisions that will effectively cut-off consumers from their favorite wines and wineries, and punish Wisconsin’s emerging wine industry:

** A Low-Tech Throwback to Paper Signatures: Each of the growing number of states (34) that allow legal, regulated direct-to-consumer shipments, including Wisconsin, allow electronic signature at the point of delivery by freight companies like FedEx and UPS. The Budget Bill’s language would require freight companies to gather paper signatures of the recipient and report these paper documents to the State, a process they probably cannot comply with. Additionally, the language requires that drivers collect a written “attestation” that the recipient was not intoxicated at the time of delivery.

** Cumbersome Shipping Limits: While shipping limits are standard in other states, Wisconsin’s current Budget Bill will limit shipments per individual rather than per winery, the standard in most other states. Because wineries cannot be sure how much wine an individual has purchased directly from others, wineries will not risk the penalties of non-compliance. Only Indiana and Massachusetts have included a per consumer aggregate purchase limit in their existing statutes; these two states are considered “prohibited” by wineries and FedEx. The proposed language also reduces consumer benefits of legal direct shipping by lowering the case limit from three cases per winery per consumer, to three cases per consumer (from all wineries).

** Regressive Licensing Fees. The Budget Bill is proposing the most regressive and onerous winery licensing fees of any state. For many wineries, the license fee will exceed the profit on wines shipped and wineries will be forced to cut-off consumers from their wine club programs

The next step for the budget bill is in the conference committee to reconcile differences in the budget between the Senate and Assembly versions.

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