Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A real threat to all wine drinkers out there.

By now a lot of you know about the bill HR 5034 that's been introduced in the U.S. Congress. There are several excellent summarizations of the bill and it's wide-ranging implications. One of them is over at Fermentation, Tom Wark's excellent blog. I urge any wine drinker to take the time to read through his analysis. If you need a quick synopsis or executive summary, head over to Dr. Vino's blog and see what he says. For once, this is something we all need to be aware of because it could end a distribution channel a lot of us use to get our wines. Here's a video that quite nicely summarizes what will happen should this idiotic piece of legislation make it into law. It's on youtube's website because I don't know how to make this dashboard shrink the size to fit the page width.

More importantly though, the potential effects on smaller wineries all across the country could be devastating. Small businesses are what drive this country, entrepreneurs who take the time, blood, sweat and tears to make their passions a reality. Small, family owned wineries exemplify this notion. They are the ones who don't have massive distribution across the country by the big guys. If you run the numbers, there are more of them than the big mega-wineries out there. While they may not pump out as much wine, you could argue their wines are more artistically driven, more expressive than one bottle out of a production run of 500,000 or more.

Without direct access to consumers, these small wineries are going to be either forced out of business, or worse, forced to sign contracts with the bigger distributors only to watch their wine languish in warehouses as the big distributors focus on moving ever larger quantities of the big producers wines. I have actually witnessed this happen. It's sad to think about especially given the quality and unique nature of wines from small producers but HR 5034 threatens to make this scenario a reality.

It's easy to dismiss the warnings and assume someone else will write to their Representative, we've all done it before. What I suggest though is to join the Facebook page, here, and see what people are actually saying. The contributors to that forum are winemakers, wine drinkers, bloggers, pretty much everyone with a passion for wine.

Basically I'm rehashing what other people/bloggers have already said, I suppose just to add my voice to those urging action on the part of wine drinkers. The ramifications of this ridiculous bill are severe and we should all take note, for a slippery slope exists. Can you envision a world where big distributors control the wine you drink? While that may seem far fetched, think about it. Those distributors buy Congressmen by paying lobbyists huge amounts to secure votes. We all tacitly acknowledge this is happening already in Washington.

Why wouldn't it happen in our wine world? I fully support the right of the individual to buy the wine they want from whomever they want, provided the buyer and seller are responsible adults of legal drinking age. This bill attempts to use some phony excuses to give States back the power to restrict the distribution channels, something the Supreme Court already struck down. It's nothing more than a power play by the big alcohol distributors who've managed to buy some immoral Congressmen.

It's something we all need to watch and voice our feelings about. Take the time do it, what's ten minutes out of your day? Do it while enjoying a glass of wine, tell your wine buddies to do the same thing. You can even make an event out of sending your Congressmen letters, a wine party! Right now is the time to make our voices heard.

Beau Carufel


  1. In today's economy it seems highly unlikely that something like this would pass. Representatives are going to look out for the financial welfare of their districts, and this would only demonize them in the eyes of the public. Just because someone introduced it doesn't mean it's a sure thing. Let's just keep our hopes up!
    p.s. Online wine news magazine PalatePress.com, which I've written for before, is looking for some new writers. You should definitely contact them about doing a story. Publicity!

  2. I think you make a very valid point, I just worry about the power of the big distributors and their paid lobbyists getting more Representatives on board.
    Thanks for the tip on PalatePress, I'll see if they'd be interested in having me write for them :)