Law uncorks interstate wine sales
DENVER – Jeffrey DiTolla doesn’t consider himself a connoisseur of wine. He just likes it to taste right with his food. When he has steak for dinner, the 40-year-old lawyer usually rounds it off with a glass of cabernet sauvignon. The acidity of the full-bodied red wine, especially the varieties from California, is less severe to the palate when it is paired with juicy red meat.For oenophiles like DiTolla, here’s some good news. Adult Coloradans now can order wine directly from any winery – within or outside the state – on the Internet or by telephone.House Bill 1120, signed into law last month, allows wineries throughout the country to ship wine directly to Colorado consumers at their homes, provided the wine is for personal consumption. Wineries cannot sell directly to Colorado restaurants or stores.”That is wonderful news,” DiTolla said. “I hope I can buy wine from some of my favorite Internet sites.”The new law, which takes effect July 1, applies to wineries only and does not include wholesale or retail stores. Internet sites such as http://www.wine.com cannot sell directly to Colorado consumers because they are retailers. Nationally, online sales account for 4 percent to 10 percent of total wine salesPreviously, a winery could not sell directly to consumers unless they had visited the winery. Although smaller Colorado wineries managed to ship some directly to local customers, it was virtually impossible for out-of-state wineries to do that.The new law requires wineries to obtain a permit for about $50 that would allow them to ship haste our award-winning wines from their own homes and help our wineries and vineyards expand their markets.”Colorado wineries produced 181,990 gallons of wine in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2005 – less than 1.5 percent of the total 12.3 million gallons of wine sold in the state during the same period.A diverse group – including wineries, breweries, wholesalers and retailers – worked on the bill to reach a consensus.The new law is beneficial for Colorado’s wineries because they will be able to reach Colorado customers directly rather than depend on wholesalers and retailers for distribution, said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.”Because Colorado consumers won’t have to visit wineries before ordering online, this new law will allow more Internet sales by Colorado wineries and also out-of-state wineries,” Caskey said.However, Caskey clarified that Colorado wineries that want to sell directly to consumers in other states would have to follow laws in those states.Nicki Hackenberger, who represents Colorado’s four major wine wholesalers, said she didn’t expect the new law to significantly cut down store sales or hurt wholesalers and retailers.”The reality is, we are talking about a select group of consumers looking for unusual or boutique wines who will shop online,” said Hackenberger, executive director of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Colorado. “By the time you pay for shipping, and wines can be pretty heavy, purchasing online won’t result in much cost savings.”
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