Tuesday, January 03, 2012
New Star Ledger Advocates Bill in Favor of New Jersey Wineries
N.J. bill to allow direct wine shipping would bolster wineries, expand buyer choices
Published: Sunday, January 01, 2012, 8:07 AM
By Star-Ledger Editorial Board The Star-Ledger
If the Assembly votes to allow direct shipment of wine to New Jersey customers, two greater goods will be accomplished: The measure will help the states budding vineyards and it will drastically expand the choices available to wine buyers.
Heres what it wont do: It wont give teens one-click access to free-flowing booze and it wont put 60,000 people out of work.
The Senate passed the bill on Dec. 15; the Assembly must vote by Jan. 9. If passed, the new law will allow wineries that produce less than 250,000 gallons a year to sell wine straight from their vineyards or storefronts. It also would allow any winery to ship its product directly to New Jersey customers currently forbidden (though out-of-state wine is delivered regularly within our borders).
The bill originally was written to fix state law that allowed New Jersey wineries to open licensed tasting rooms, where customers taste, then buy. But the law denied the privilege to out-of-state wineries, which sued. Federal courts agreed and ordered New Jersey to treat all wineries equally or risk the licenses of local wineries. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) wrote the current bill to allow all wineries to sell on- and off-site, and added the direct-ship provision. Eager to save their tasting rooms and licenses, New Jersey wineries signed on.
On its face, Sweeneys bill looks like good news for both winemakers and wine drinkers. But it has strong opposition, mostly from the middlemen who want to protect their cut of all New Jersey liquor sales.
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), whose family has owned a tavern for more than 50 years, has been the loudest opponent of the bill. He claims it puts wine within easy reach of any teen with a computer. He also calls it a job-killer, arguing that anything that cuts the middlemen out of New Jerseys alcohol sales also puts jobs at risk.
Both arguments are fear-mongering nonsense.
Hurdles for underage drinkers include steep shipping fees, long shipping times and the 21-or-older signature required at delivery.
As for jobs, those same shipping fees and delivery times mean online wine buys will be limited to rarer, high-end labels that arent available in stores no competition for a quick in-and-out at the local wine shop. Nationwide, direct-ship accounts for just 1 percent of all wine sales.
Shoppers flock online for books, music, clothes, shoes typically, when they want a wider selection than one store can offer. New Jersey wineries hope selling online and shipping directly will help them find new customers and create repeat buyers. Thats particularly true for smaller wineries that find it hard to get onto store shelves.
New Jersey is no small player in the U.S. market. Our 50 wineries rank No. 6 in production; our wine drinkers rank us No. 5 in consumption.
New Jersey wineries the states most promising farmers need this law because its good for business. Its already law in 38 states. Direct-shipping expands consumer choice. Moreover, local wineries draw tourism, and the state stands to make millions on license fees and sales taxes.
The arguments against? Put a cork in em.