Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wine Consumers Fight Illinois Wine Laws

Can wine consumers go head to head with the government for their right to access wines from out-of-state wine retailers, meaning privately owned out-of-state wine stores, Internet wine stores, wine auction houses and non-winery wine clubs? We'll find out!

Tom Wark, wine colleague, fellow wine blogger and Executive Director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association keeps me in touch regarding the on-going wine shipping debate. Tom's organization, the Specialty Wine Retailers Association is a national group that advocates fair, non-discriminatory and well-regulated direct shipment of wine. Even in spite of the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision to make state wine laws fair for in-state and out-of-state wine retail shippers, there still remains very powerful and deep pocketed forces that are working hard (and "donating" hard) to prevent wine consumers from obtaining the wines they desire to add to their wine cellars and personal wine palate portfolios.

With the recent arrest and corruption charges of Illinois State Governor Rod Blagojevich, I have to admit, the first thing that came to my mind, upon hearing the news of the Blagojevich's pay-to-play politics, "How much cash did the Beatle-bobbed 'Gov' pocket from the Illinois alcohol wholesalers just before he stripped Illinois consumer's right to purchase wine from out-of-state?"

So, was I being judgemental in my thoughts regarding this fine public servant? Hmmm - I'll let you decide - -

Thanks to Tom Wark's tireless and dedicated sleuthing, this is what he discovered: Since 2002, Illinois alcohol wholesalers contributed $563,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns. In October 2007, Governor Blagojevich signed into law the anti-consumer, wholesaler-protecting bill (HB 429) that forced Illinois consumers to purchase their wines only from Illinois in-state wholesaler-serviced wine stores and he protected the profits of a small group of politically connected alcohol wholesalers. Also, since 2002 the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois have donated over $96,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns. And on July 10, 2008, Governor Blagojevich proclaimed "Beer Distributor Day" in Illinois.

And here's the rub: for 15 years, between 1992-2008, Illinois wine consumers have been able to legally purchase and have most wines shipped to them from out-of-state retailers and out-of-state wineries. And now, Governor Blagojevich just stripped them of their access to buy wines from out-of state.

However, I am pleased to announce that the Illinois wine consumers are fighting back! They have recently found the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition, because during the negotiations that led to this new law, no consumers were consulted. We haven't seen this kind of control since Prohibition!

So you may ask, "So Catie, why do we care about the what the wine consumer of Illinois is drinking?" You should care and it can get personal. Your Uncle Alberto in Peoria will never get that bottle of Walla Walla wine you've been raving about and wanted to send to him for Christmas. My good friend (true example) and wine aficionado Julie from Illinois (aka "Jules D'Lago the Toast of Chicago") made a couple of visits to Walla Walla to taste the wines and had several cases shipped home. She's also been a member of various wine clubs and now all of her wine shipments have been stopped!

Limited access of wines can also effect jobs, revenue and taxes. And why should just the local wine consumer's from Walla Walla and the State of Washington be the only ones to taste and enjoy what Walla Walla and the State of Washington are so proud of and becoming recognized for around the wine world? Wineries and wine retailers cannot exist just from local revenue only. Why can't we share our glorious wealth of wines? But most important, everyone in the United States should experience free trade, consumer rights, free American markets and clean government. Amen!

For more information on the wine shipping laws please also contact: Free The Grapes to ensure consumer choice in fine wine.

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