Wineries' privileges to ship to Florida are under attack. As is happening in many states, the distributors' lobby has been working to reduce or eliminate the abilities of out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers, and there have been recent developments consumers in Florida - or wineries who ship to Florida - should be aware of.
Last week, in what sounds like a strange and contentious legislative session, Florida House Jobs & Entrepreneurship Council voted 7-6 against a direct shipping bill modeled after the legislation used in states around the country. The Department of Business & Professional Regulation, which has allowed wine shipments by executive ruling since early 2006, has said that without approved legislation, it will revoke its ruling on May 5th. The failure of the committee to forward a bill to the state Senate leaves this permission in limbo.
An good article describing the recent developments appeared in the Orlando Sentinel.
It appears to me that the distributors' lobby, in responding to state legislators' unwillingness to vote publicly against a consumer-friendly (and pro-business) measure like regulated direct shipments of wine, have offered legislators an out: by declaring that the amendment with a production cap had failed, they delivered a bill to the committee that a bare majority could vote against... uniting those legislators who believe that no direct shipping should be allowed with those who believe that it should be allowed only for smaller wineries. In effect, they offered a "poison pill" provision into the direct shipping bill, allowing legislators to appear to vote against a part of the bill while actually voting against the entire bill.
It is too early to know what impact this will have. The legislature has until May 5th to pass a workable bill before the state deadline passes. Interested consumers should write to your state representatives, urging them to pass a workable wine shipping bill. A sample letter, which can be modified to suit your desires, is available on the "Free the Grapes" Web site.
At Tablas Creek, we have always worked to open legal avenues of shipping, and we hope that Florida will not become the first state to remove shipping privileges granted after the Supreme Court ruling two years ago.