Wine Trader Magazine

(a.k.a. Mead's Mad Mumblings)


As much as The Wine Curmudgeon bitches and bellyaches, he always manages to find a good news item for openers. And this issue's good news could be the best and most important news on the interstate shipping front since TWC came up with the idea for reciprocity. (And TWC isn't being facetious about inventing reciprocity...he really, really did and will be glad to tell you about it someday.)

It appears the state of Louisiana will be the first to pass legislation (other than reciprocity legislation) that will specifically permit out-of-state wholesalers, retailers and wineries to ship up to sixty bottles direct to consumers, after registering with the the state, paying an annual $100 fee and paying, also on an annual basis, any sales and excise taxes that the state of Louisiana would have collected had the sale taken place there.

In reading the wording of the proposed legislation, it appears to apply equally to purveyors of wine, beer and even spirits. While credit for the concept is probably due to the Coalition for Free Trade in Licensed Beverages and Family Winemakers of California, credit for lobbying this one through and negotiating the final draft working with Louisiana legislators and wholesalers should go to the folks at Wine Institute.

Interestingly, this is quite similar to the legislation proposed by the Attorney General of Florida, which it's greedy wholesale monopoly lobbied against while sponsoring and passing its own legislation making such shipping a felony. More about the bad boys of Florida later.

The Louisiana law, if it's passed, could and should become a model for other states, because it satisfies all the state's interests. It collects the taxes, requires "Adult Signature" shipments thereby protecting the youth of America from "Demon Rum" and verifies that the shippers are appropriately licensed beverage dealers.

Hooray! for Louisiana for not behaving like its redneck southern neighbors. And hooray! for Wine Institute for a very good and important piece of work. This might even help them get back some of the members they've lost in recent years.


There's a story circulating, which may well be apocryphal, but which I found amusing whether exactly true or not.

Anyone reading a wine magazine is no doubt aware that one Robert M. Parker, Jr. and his publication The Wine Advocate has considerable power and is often quoted on shelf-talkers and in advertisements as a way to promote and sell wine.

Well, the story goes that Robert M. Parker, Jr. found himself in a medium-sized, rather nice, wine shop in the midwest, and was at first pleased to see how widely his name was used (free publicity after all) throughout the store. It seemed like every other wine had a note beneath it with a brief description, followed by "Robert Parker 92" or "Robert Parker 88" or whatever.

The problem is that Robert M. Parker, Jr. soon discovered that the words didn't sound exactly like his and that he didn't recall having even tasted some of the wines, much less having reviewed them. This was a problem he had encountered before where greedy retailers were involved.

So he approached what appeared to be the manager or proprietor, and without revealing who he was, declared, "I subscribe to The Wine Advocate and read almost everything Robert Parker has ever written, and I don't think he has reviewed some of the wines on your shelves. What do you have to say to that?"

And the fellow replied, "Well, first let me introduce myself, I own this shop and my name is Robert Parker.


How long has TWC been warning you about what the "drys" are really up to? And how many of you have poo-poo'ed TWC's theories...some to my face...some behind my back...and some to yourselves in your living rooms?

When I warn you that their small moves toward ever tighter restrictions on wine, beer and spirits are really a conspiracy to return us to Prohibition, or something close to write me off as a radical, don't you? You say things like, "That could never happen in our modern society." Or, "We would never stand for that again...too many of us enjoy the beverages to let it happen."

Ditto when I warn you that MADD, DARE, SADD, CSPI and other anti-alcohol groups are no longer fighting abuse and drunk driving, but have really become "zero tolerance" advocates...which is as close to neo-Prohibitionism as you're going to get.

When a majority of states passed (responding to federal blackmail threatening to cut off highway funds if they didn't) "zero tolerance" laws affecting minors, many of you said things like, "Well, teens shouldn't be drinking anyhow, and it doesn't affect me, and they aren't trying to do it to adults..."

Oh, no?! Please don't forget that every minor isn't a 16 year old beer guzzler in a hot rod. That "minor" could be an otherwise legal adult of 20 who is married with children and paying the same taxes as you and me. And please remember that I warned you that what they did to the "under 21s" today they'll try to do to you tomorrow.

And if you think TWC is still being paranoid and a prophet of doom and gloom... consider this: At a Senate Transportation Subcommittee hearing the national president of MADD testified in behalf of once again using the threat of cutting off federal highway funds as a way to blackmail states into passing a mandatory lowering of permissible blood alcohol levels in drivers to .08. She went on to speak in favor of both even lower BACs and eventual "zero tolerance." You'll note that MADD's propaganda no longer talks about now talks about "drinking" as the activity to be banned...not excessive drinking.

Someone else spoke out for "zero tolerance" at these hearings...someone from California...someone from "the" wine state.

Senator Barbara Boxer (another Democrat) testified using the following words: "I frankly think when we look back, in maybe 20 years when it (the BAC level) is down lower than .08%, we may end up in this country going to zero tolerance, period."

"Zero tolerance, period" is a term right out of the MADD propaganda handbook, so we know where she got the term. But why it's coming from the lips of a California senator who is supposed to be a friend to wine and should be better informed regarding the flawed statistics supporting .08 legislation, is hard to figure.

This is a "Boxer" that needs to be chewed on a little by constituents (and we ain't talking ears here)...and failing that voted out of office next time around. It's hard to figure, but Barbara Boxer must be added to the list of enemies of wine, beer and spirits. She has painted herself, by her own words, as an anti-alcohol fanatic.


MADD, with its campaign for lowering permissible b.a.c.s for drivers to .08 (which is really just a step towards "zero tolerance," which has also been admitted), has for years made it sound like one would have to drink a lot in a very short time to reach that .08 level, and that supporting it should not impact on moderate, responsible drinkers.

Well, according to research conducted by the American Beverage Institute, and using the same U.S. Department of Transportation statistics as the MADD mothers, MADD has at least exaggerated and very possibly outright lied.

Here's the truth: A 120 pound female who has two 6 oz. glasses of a typical California table wine in a two hour period (that's only one glass every hour!), would be at the .08 level advocated by MADD and thereby "legally" drunk.

So beware, girlfriend. Thanks to MADD (and other anti-alcohol fanatics), you can lose your driver's license, pay huge fines, be convicted of a felony in some states, do actual jail time and almost certainly have to pay for classes in "alcohol abuse," all because you had two glasses of Chardonnay.

And fellas, it don't take much more for you to become a "legal" drunk, even though you won't be feeling a thing or showing any signs of impairment.

If your state doesn't already have .08, it probably will soon if MADD has its way. And if your state does have .08, they'll be declaring you a felon and a drunk driver soon, at .06 or .04, on the way to MADD's goal of "zero tolerance." Then you'll be a legal drunk with all the attendant penalties after a single glass of wine or beer.

And if they can't convince your state legislators, they'll simply go off to Washington and use federal blackmail (usually a threat to cut off highway funds) to mandate the lower b.a.c.s. That's how they made 21 the mandatory drinking age (even though many states resisted) and how they just passed "zero tolerance for 18, 19 and 20 year old adults. You'll be next unless you do something about it.

One thing you can do is stop giving money to MADD, SADD, DARE, CSPI and any organization that compares wine, beer and spirits to street narcotics by using the term "alcohol and other drugs." And also refuse to donate to community chest type organizations who share their funds with these enemies of wine and freedom.


Florida is not the first state to pass legislation making the shipping of wine direct to consumers from out of state a felony, but the way it was passed in Florida makes it an example of the lowest kind of sleazy, legislation to the highest bidder, forget what's right, and as the man said in the film Jerry Maguire... "Show me the money."

It's also a sad example of political cronyism when the governor of the state failed to veto such special interest legislation after being advised to do so, on several grounds, by the top law man in the state, Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth. (See a copy of Butterworth's letter to Governor Lawton Chiles on page 16)

Florida had already lost a legal action related to interstate shipping in federal court, and was facing a counter suit from the pro-active Coalition for Free Trade in Licensed Beverages. Butterworth asked CFT to postpone its action because he was preparing proposed legislation to make the entire issue moot.

As previously suggested by CFT, the bill would presumably respond to all the states interests in the collection, legal sales by licensed dealers and preventing sales to minors. The legislation would have provided for registration of out of state dealers along with the payment of a reasonable licensing fee, a system whereby excise and sales taxes could be paid to the state of Florida (most states complain that the problem with interstate shipping is that the state loses taxes, but none provide a method for those taxes to be paid) and a requirement for adult signatures on delivery.

Instead of embracing this reasonable program that answered all the state's interests regarding the sales of wine, along with with satisfying the needs of consumers to seek products otherwise unavailable in Florida, permitting small farm wineries a way to reach consumers and in general doing things the American, free-enterprise way, Florida's legislature yielded to a handful of greedy wholesaler monopolists known for their large contributions to reelection campaigns and passed legislation making such shipments a felony. In an act of obvious political cronyism Governor Chiles permitted it to become law.

There will be retribution as well as legal action from CFT and possibly others. The folks who worked so hard to maintain their monopoly may have just signed its death warrant by forcing the hand of the consumers and small producers affected by the restrictions. There's a very good chance that when this works its way through the courts that the so-called 3-tier systems (really a 3-tier monopoly) will be ruled unconstitutional.

ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) has already rerouted its annual tasting tour out of the Southeast, and we understand a number of Florida based wine festivals and charity events are being boycotted, partially out of fear of accidentally becoming felons and partially as retribution for being in a state unfriendly to wine.

Talk of boycotts of citrus and other things to do with Florida are still under consideration and the California Legislature recently censured their Florida colleagues for their anti-wine legislation.

There is still time to undo what has been done in Florida, and the wholesalers who are pulling the strings should wake up and do it before it's done for them by the judiciary.


One of the fallouts of the passing of felony laws banning shipments into Florida, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, is a great debate regarding boycotts of various and sundry industries that those states are famous for, including Bourbon in Kentucky, citrus from Florida, peaches from Georgia (and Turner Broadcasting and Atlanta's sports teams) and the blues from Memphis (that last one really hurts!).

Another camp advocates boycotting ALL events in those states (and others engaging even in stings against wine shippers), by refusing to support/attend wine festivals, competitions, charity events and the like...and letting the organizers know why. And that seems fair because in many instances, the organizers of these events did not stand up for wine in their legislatures when the wholesale monopolists were having their way against free enterprise. So the arguments that "if you aren't part of the solution you're part of the problem" and "if you aren't wine's friend, you're its enemy" make some sense.

Hurt some of these charities and festivals that have been making tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars off of the support and donations in product and presence of the wine industry, and maybe they'll take the time to make their politicians take notice...maybe the politicians will change their tune if they hear from someone other than the fat cat wholesalers who contribute so much money to their re-election.

So I endorse and support all such actions which will bring the legislators of the bad states to their senses...with at least one exception.

That exception is The Atlanta Wine Summit International Wine Competition, organized and administered by one Bruce Galphin. Now before some cynic argues that I'm making an exception for a friend (he is one of longstanding, but more importantly, he's a friend of wine for even longer) and advertiser (his one or two small ads a year can't buy TWC, honest), let me explain why.

No one fought the bad guys in Georgia more than Bruce Galphin. He was a source for information for all those in the trade and out who were fighting the legislation, and allowed me to publish his name as a contact both on the Internet and in such national publications as The Wine Trader and in my column in The Wine Enthusiast. He stirred the pot, was directly responsible for supplying the information to the few journalists who did cover the story in local media and actually ghost-wrote one such story (which I wasn't supposed to tell, and he wouldn't admit, but I could tell from the writing)...and wrote his own letters not only to members of the legislature but to the governor himself, and old acquaintance of Galphin's from his days as a political reporter.

So the idea of boycotting The Atlanta Wine Summit, the work for which is responsible for a goodly portion of this friend of wine's annual income, thereby denying him his livelihood, is the moral equivalent of shooting a civil rights leader who happens to live in the south because you're opposed to discrimination.

Further, Galphin has adopted a suggestion that he utilize The Summit as a forum for enlisting support to overturn the felony legislation in the very next session, and perhaps to collect signatures on petitions and/or raise moneys for organizations seeking to overturn the law on legals grounds.

So, TWC says, boycott away... against peaches, citrus, even Memphis soul sounds...but leave my buddy Bruce Galphin and The Atlanta Wine Summit out of it

The Wine Curmudgeon
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Latest Update: October 31, 1997