Mead On Wine
Last Week99 Indexsubscribearchive

© 1999 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

    It's that time of year for standing in line at the postal service, UPS, FedEx or Mail Boxes R Us, to mail, ship or receive goodies of all kinds. Some of you who tried to send wine may have encountered a few problems.

This problem with interstate shipping of wine, which your favorite wine columnist has been writing about for at least 25 years, has finally popped up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, in the NY Times, USA Today and in mainstream papers all over the U.S.

You see, you can freely ship just about anything else in this country, except a bottle of wine to someone in most states other than the one in which you live. You can send a box of cigars, a pearl-handled revolver, a hunting knife or prescription pharmaceuticals, but if you ship a bottle of wine to a friend in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Georgia or several other states you will have committed a felony and could do more time than people guilty of violent crimes.

Then there are "reciprocal" states, which means that they have an agreement that folks can ship wine back and forth to each other from those states only, and include California, Washington, Oregon, Missouri, Wisconsin and several others for a total of 12.

There are also totally legal states like Nebraska and Nevada which have laws specifically stating that consumers may import/receive wine from other states.

Here's the "Catch 22." It may be legal, but you may still not be able to find a common carrier that will accept and deliver your legal shipment. That's because many shippers have just thrown up their corporate hands and in effect said: "This wine shipping stuff is just too confusing, so we won't try to figure out what's legal and what's not. We'll just refuse them all."

So why can't you ship wine? It's a long story, but I'll cut to the chase. States try to ban wine shipments to protect their own excise and sales tax base. Local wholesalers make huge donations to politicians to make even tougher laws against interstate shipping to protect the wholesalers' existing monopolies.

You will hear arguments for anti-shipping advocates that it's to protect minors from being able to buy via mail order or the Internet, but that is a smoke screen. Every example they cite is a "sting" operation set up by opponents of shipping or by a tabloid-type tv show.

No one mentions that within many states it has been legal to ship direct to consumer for decades with no problems of deliveries to minors. The top alcohol cop for California testified to this fact before the U.S. Senate.

The good news is that the situation may be much better by next holiday season. A lawsuit has been filed in the state of Virginia with the support of the proactive organization Coalition for Free Trade (CFT), representing as plaintiffs both consumers and wineries.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court by the law firm of Hale & Hall, naming as defendants the director and commissioners of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The plaintiffs represented include Virginia consumers and wineries in Texas and Oregon. Virginia law forbids anyone other than in-state wholesale monopolies from bringing in wine from other states and bans direct shipments to consumers from vintners in other states, while a variety of in-state businesses are able to ship wine to consumers. Attorney Matt Hale says, "This is a clear violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and deprives adults of their right to purchase from the supplier of their choice." Don't be surprised if this one goes all the way to the U.S. Supremes and impacts such bans in other states.

For more information or to become a supporter of free interstate trade in wine contact: CFT, P.O. Box 4277, Napa, CA 94558 (707) 747-1556; E-mail:


You won't be able to find them everywhere, though they are available in at least some stores in a least 30 states, and that is a collection of wines called "The Garling Collection." Imported from the former Russian state that was once a part of Bulgaria, the Russian immigrants who are importing the wines have wisely focused on a collection of specialty products ranging from off-dry (slightly sweet) to late harvest "sticky" styles.

There are also a couple of Ukrainian sparkling wines, both made using the expensive "methode champenoise." Krimskoye ($12) is the brand and the white bubbly is a semidry wine that tastes similar to German Sekt with an emphasis on fruitiness and a sweetness level similar to French Champagnes labeled "Extra Dry." There is also a red version made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended to a local grape that has very ripe plum and boysenberry flavors and is reminiscent of Australian Sparkling Shiraz.

Kagor Pastoral ($9 for 500ml) From the Garling Collection, this 16 percent alcohol dessert wine has a smoky, earthy, bacon rind nose, followed by flavors of sweet cassis, plum-prune and a little chocolate. Final impression is like a cross between Port and Late Harvest Zinfandel. Rating: 92/90

Garling Collection Muscat Off-Dry ($7.50) A midday sipper with fruit and biscuits. Very pleasant ripe peach and little touch of apricot. Perfectly balanced as to sweetness and acidity...think dried fruit. Rating: 87/92

To track down the wines contact the importer: Dime Group (415) 987-5575; E-mail:


(about $30) For New Years Eve or all the other holiday entertaining in between, this is one of California's very best bubblies. It was about five years ago that they really got the cuvee/blend just the way they wanted it, and the wine has been winning gold medals, sweepstakes awards and high critical praise ever since. Appley, citrus flavors with a creamy mouthfeel and bubbles so tiny they'll hardly make you burp! Dry but not austere. A great champagne for toasting, partying or accompanying food. A great looking bottle you'll be proud to show as well. Rating: 94/88

Subscription Information

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1999 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
The Mead On Wine WebSite is designed, maintained and hosted by Wines on the Internet.