When I first started in this business I asked around to other wineries regarding many aspects of the business. Many wineries have chosen to obtain their own permits in selected states, however some have selected a shipping service that holds permits in various states. The service also may work with the wineries & some states to obtain required permits.
I also spoke to the legal folks handling my initial license efforts about all the aspects of sales in-state and out-of-state. The legal folks provided me with a list of states and their requirements for out-of-state wine shipments. They also stressed the importance of having a permit and provide legal assistance in obtaining the permits. The list, requirements, and fees made my head spin.
My state is Virginia and I became fully aware that to ship out-of-state would require a great deal of work and the associated funds, as each state has different requirements.
In addition, some states like Mississippi make it nearly impossible. Other states, like New Jersey, require such high fees to even obtain a permit to ship into the state makes the effort a losing proposition until a great deal of sales occur.
After talking to both UPS and FedEx it became obvious that they would require me to hold the appropriate permits for such shipments. But they left the impression that the onus was on me to ensure that the shipment was legal. So now it seems that UPS and FedEx have lowered the boom and now require the shipper, winery or retailer, to produce the evidence that shipment is allowed. Now we are witnessing a great deal of reaction or whining, based on what I have read.
What has obviously been occurring is that wineries and retailers have been shipping wine to anywhere the customer lives via the internet. It is interesting to note that eBay requires such evidence. For the wineries that do adhere to the legal process, this news is not sad, the news should help even the playing field.
States that severely restrict the interstate receipt of wine are: Alabama*, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island [Wineries may ship only after local purchase], Utah, and Vermont. Alabama requires the recipient to obtain a permit and the wine is then shipped to a nearby liquor establishment for distribution.
States with high yearly fees are: Connecticut [$415/first year/$315/2nd Year], Illinois [$350 – $1500], New Jersey [$938/year], and South Dakota [$100/year but reporting is difficult].
Most states also limit the quantities allowed to be shipped, normally in cases of wine, to a specific household. Some states refer to gallons or bottles.
Retailers are only allowed to ship to 14 states: Alaska, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. There are some restrictions in some of these states, including volume limits, permits, marketing, and non-shipment to dry areas.
So how do I ship to 38 states? I use VinoShipper. This service, and I have not found another one like it servicing the entire US, helps wineries sell direct while staying compliant with all state regulatory, shipping and tax rules. The process is simple, sign up, provide whatever licenses you have, obtain one from California [I did this] and pass it along to VinoShipper, list your wines, set your prices, discounts, etc., and advertise. There is a second service, but just for Virginia Wineries, VinoWineApp where I can ship to California, District of Columbia, and Virginia. As far as I am concerned, VinoShipper is my primary shipper for out of state shipping and I can handle Virginia & DC Shipping. VinoWineApp actually provides a selling service, is new, and is still finding itself. As it is concentrating on Virginia, I chose to sign up.
Customers go on my webpage, select “VinoShipper or VinoWineApp” and are transported to the VinoShipper or VinoWineApp website with my wine listed. The customer makes their purchase, VinoShipper provides me the UPS shipping label, I pack and ship the wine. Yes there is a fee, but it is not even close to the fees required to obtain all those licenses, collect the taxes, pay the taxes, and so on and so on. For VinoWineApp once the customer selects their wine a small convenience fee the purchase is made and the wine is shipped or picked up.
The bottom line here is that many retailers and some wineries, as best I can tell have been shipping wherever they could to whomever purchased the wine, and this is against the law. It also places some liability on the sender, the shipper, and maybe even the purchaser. It seems to me that if a retailer wants to do direct wine shipping, they need to work with the winery or the service. Obviously the retailer cannot work with a foreign winery, so there’s the rub.
Robert M. Shepard, Jr.
Five Oaks Vineyard