DOVER – A bill has been introduced into the Delaware House of Representatives that would allow American wineries to ship cases of their product directly to Delaware residents, but consumers who have grown fond of doorstep deliveries during the COVID lockdowns will mostly likely have to continue to wait before being asked for a mandatory adult signature.“The bill will probably be heard in committee before the end of June and will probably get out on the floor for debate, but I doubt it will be voted on before next year,” said Rep. Michael Smith (R-Pike Creek), the lead sponsor of House Bill 210, which was introduced May 20.
[caption id="attachment_212119" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Delaware wine drinkers may soon have wine delivered directly to their doorsteps. | PHOTO BY KELSEY KNIGHT ON UNSPLASH[/caption]
For now, Delawareans will have to play the guessing game of whether this is finally the measure that will allow direct shipments, as every state except Delaware, Utah, Alabama and Mississippi currently do. Smith is hopeful.“We see this as a compromise measure and the Speaker of the House is one of the co-sponsors of the bill,” Smith said, noting the endorsement that ensures bipartisan support.“There has been a shipping bill every year from the time I became commissioner in 2001 until now,” said John Cordrey, whose Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control would be in charge of overseeing its enactment if it passes. He sees no logistics problem in doing so and notes that there would be revenues gained through excise taxes paid to Delaware by the wineries.Previous bills introduced into the legislature had more onerous provisions, said Terri Cofer Beirne, Richmond, Va.-based counsel for the Wine Institute, an advocacy group for more than 1,000 California wine producers and affiliated businesses.“One bill said wines couldn’t be shipped to Delaware if they were available even in one store in the state,” she said, but noted the current bill still limits a consumer to three cases a year from any one winery.Delaware’s prohibition also prevents Delaware wineries from shipping within the state, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 (Granholm v. Heald) that any state permitting intrastate shipping also must allow interstate wine shipments.“There was no mercy for Delaware wineries to ship to our customers” during the pandemic, said Peggy Raley-Ward, owner of Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes and a supporter of the current bill. “You could get a margarita to go [from a restaurant,] but you couldn't order a bottle of wine from a local winery.”Previous shipping bills have been opposed by Delaware’s powerful wholesalers and retailers, as well as the local Teamsters Union, whose members deliver for them. But one retailer, Linda Collier, owner of Collier’s of Greenville, said consumers have been getting wine shipped to them for years, “legally or not,” often through friends in nearby states. She doesn’t believe that the bill, if enacted, would affect her business.“Wine is a romance thing and having it dropped off at your door as just another commodity is not what it’s all about,” she said.The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR), which represents online and brick-and-mortar retailers who ship wine across the country but who do not themselves produce wine, opposes HB210 unless they are included, pointing out the measure would continue to deny consumers from receiving shipments of imported wines. Retailers are currently allowed to direct ship to consumers in only 15 states and the District of Columbia.Smith, the bill’s sponsor, has criticized the NAWR for its “all or nothing” stance, and Cordrey points out that retailers are not licensed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), as are wineries, brewers and distillers to guarantee what is on the label must be in the bottle.“I have a lot of coffees and constituent visits,” Smith said, “and the No. 1 issue brought up is not education or jobs but ‘When is Delaware going to allow direct shipping of wine?’”By Roger Morris