A number of convoluted laws came into place following prohibition, many of which are based on the same faulty reasoning that led to curbs on alcohol sales in the first place. Although wine remained somewhat available during prohibition (people took a lot of sacramental wine it seems), a ban on direct shipping to consumers remained for a number of years. These regulations varied from state to state, with many states allowing wineries to ship directly to their customers within the state, but gradually a system of reciprocity between states with such allowances developed and was confirmed in a 2005 Supreme Court ruling. An echo of prohibition rang out this year however with the proposal in Congress (H.R. 5034) to ban such sales.
Unsurprisingly, the bill was put forth by wholesalers, who would stand to lose by being bypassed. But rather than draw attention to the real reasons behind the proposal, the lobbying campaign in support of it trots out the same tired public health arguments that harken back to a bygone era. Children and minors will have easier access to alcohol, they say, and direct shipping encourages alcohol abuse. As if minors are going to order boutique wines from small producers, and wait a couple of weeks for it, all the while hoping it will be delivered while their parents aren’t home, and that the shipper won’t demand a signature from someone over 21 as clearly stated on the large heavy box also labeled “contains alcoholic beverages.” If you really believe that, I have to ask what you have been smoking.
So are there public health consequences to direct shipping? If there are, I would place them squarely on the benefit side. People who buy wine direct tend to be interested in the wine for its aesthetic attributes more than its anesthetic properties. There are cheaper and more convenient ways to imbibe. Drinking wine because you enjoy the particular qualities of the wine means that it becomes more like a food, part of a meal, a component of a healthy lifestyle.
More information and resources on this issue at http://freethegrapes.org/