WSWA on Wine Shippers: “Flaunting their disdain”

Just over a week ago, on the same day that the Specialty Wine Retailers Association held their first annual symposium, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America issued a press release. This in itself was not remarkable – the WSWA has an active PR effort working to ensure their views are presented to the mainstream media and impact their lobbying efforts. However, this press release requires some attention. WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf penned a letter that was sent out to regulators in all 50 states, calling on the state alcoholic beverage boards to step up their enforcement of alcohol shipping laws. Below are a few choice excerpts from the letter.

I write to call your attention to a serious and ongoing breach of state alcohol control laws. While the breach is alarming enough, almost as troubling is the brazen disregard the perpetrators continue to show for the rule of law and those appointed to enforce it.

I refer to the illegal transportation of alcohol via common carrier across state lines and into your jurisdiction. These shipments fall outside of the controlled distribution system mandated by state law. As you are well aware, the sidestepping of state-controlled alcohol distribution channels causes a host of negative effects—the inability to collect taxes, the absence of a face-to-face transaction that addresses myriad regulatory aims, and the very real possibility of introducing tainted or counterfeit product into your marketplace, to name but a few.

a growing number of interstate purveyors of beverage alcohol are flaunting their disdain for laws designed to prevent underage access and ensure accountability. They appear both utterly remorseless and resolute in their intention to keep breaking those laws, with little fear of retribution.

I have little doubt that as a respected enforcement agent of your state’s codes and statutes, you will bring your full attention to this rampant problem and help restore the rule of law to a highly sensitive area of commerce. If you have any further questions concerning any of the matters I have raised, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

I was happy to be a part of the first SWRA symposium. Dean Kenneth Starr, the keynote speaker, presented a very positive outlook for wine retailers and their battles on the wine shipping litigation and legislation fronts. Tom Wark, Executive Director of the SWRA, began the day with the news of this press release and issued a call to retailers to join him in rising up to this challenge from the WSWA.

The first step towards success in reaching the goal of gaining access to more states for the direct shipment of wine is to simply demonstrate compliance with the laws of the states. We have been working with wineries for years, helping them comply with all of the laws of the states, so I know that they are up for the challenge. And I know wine retailers are up for this challenge as well, because I heard it at the symposium and could see that they are coming together effectively, through the hard work of the SWRA, to fight this battle as a group.

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