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Romeny Files Bill to Support Consumer Choice in Wine

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Legislation would allow all wineries to ship directly to Massachusetts residents

Governor Mitt Romney today filed legislation to regulate the direct interstate shipment of wine to Massachusetts. The proposed new law would satisfy consumer demand for choice in wine without imposing burdensome restrictions on this type of commerce.

"It's time we end the monopoly that wholesalers have over wine sales and allow out-of-state wineries to ship directly to Massachusetts consumers," said Romney.

In the fall, Romney vetoed a bill prohibiting direct sales by wineries that produce more than 30,000 gallons of wine a year if they are represented by a Massachusetts wholesaler. That legislation would have benefited wholesalers at the expense of consumers, he said.

Under Romney's new bill, any winery could ship to Massachusetts. The bill requires the Department of Revenue and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to promulgate regulations within 30 days of enactment.

Romney's push to open up Massachusetts to direct wine sales follows last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said states cannot allow in-state wineries to ship to their consumers and deny that same privilege to out-of-state wineries. Following this ruling, a federal district court in Boston invalidated those portions of state law that restrict out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to Massachusetts consumers. Under the old law, only local wineries could ship to Massachusetts residents.

There are specific safeguards in the Governor's bill to discourage minors from obtaining wine through the mail. Upon delivery, recipients would be required to prove - with identification and signature - that they are over the legal drinking age of 21.

The proposed law also includes provisions previously approved by the Legislature that permit restaurant patrons to re-cork unfinished bottles of wine and bring them home.

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