"Chicken Little tells you that the sky is fallin'…"

by Katie Pizzuto on April 19, 2010

in Distributor,Regulations,Wine Shipping

For those of you who don’t read Wine Spectator (god I hope that’s most of you) and who can’t seem to manage to stay on top of every piece of legislation that passes through Washington’s corridors all by yourself, please, for the love of all that’s wine-soaked, familiarize yourself with HR 5034.

House Resolution 5034 is, without question, the most blatant attempt to railroad wine-drinking consumers (and beer as well), all in the name of America’s mind-numbingly idiotic, three-tiered, wholesaler-controlled distribution system. HR 5034 is about handing over complete control of the country’s beer/wine market to wholesalers. HR 5034 is about making sure that wholesalers get to decide which wines consumers can and can’t have access to. HR 5034 is about pissing on every small, boutique American winery out there until it starts pushing up daisies. HR 5034 is a fucking thorn in our side.

This bill not only negates the 2005 Supreme Court “Granholm” decision, basically allowing states to pass laws that will discriminate against out-of-state wine shippers, but it also mandates that the law cannot be challenged in court (and invalidated). It was introduced by Mr. Delahunt, Mr. Coble, Mr. Chaffetz, and Mr. Quigley, and while Delahunt gets no contributions from wholesalers, it’s no surprise that Coble’s #1 contributor is the National Beer Wholesalers Association, that Chaffetz got $5000 from the same group, and that Quigly got $6300 from a law firm that specialize in “legal aspects of the alcoholic beverage and hospitality industries.” In an effort to ensure a cut of every god damned bottle of wine bought and sold in the US, wholesalers are pushing for this bill with every bit of artillery they have, including the scare tactic that a law is needed to “prevent frivolous lawsuits and to allow states to maintain firm control of sales and prevent alcoholism and underage drinking.” Just so we’re clear—wholesalers apparently can help prevent alcoholism despite the fact that no medical miracle has ever managed to do so, and also despite the fact that they have no interaction at all with the end user. Brilliant.

If passed, HR 5034 will all but ensure the demise of hundreds of small wineries that get no representation from wholesalers, and whose main means of income is direct-to-consumer sales. It will cut consumers off from having access to thousands of wines that are unattainable if not bought directly from the winery. It will thumb its nose at both consumers and small wineries, stifling competition and free trade. And it will set any forward motion in this debate back into the dark ages. The only way many wineries can survive the industry’s fickle distribution system is by shipping their products direct to consumers, and vice versa the only way consumers can get their hands on most of the small-production wines in this country is via direct shipment of wine. If H.R. 5034 passes, it could be the beginning of the end of that symbiotic relationship in many states.

I know I’ve asked it a dozen times, but if you value your freedom of choice and a winery’s freedom of commerce, get off your ass. Contact winery associations and other industry associations and ask them to actively oppose HR 5034, contact your congressional representatives and ask them NOT to support HR 5034, and join the FACEBOOK PAGE “Stop HR5034”.

Some say this will never pass, and it very well may not, but I’m not one to rest on hopes. As Tom Wark wrote, “This kind of bill is unlikely to find much significant opposition or support from the citizens of the United States. It’s not a sexy bill that affects the majority of Americans. H.R. 5034 is the kind of bill that gets pushed and opposed by insiders and lobbyists without much attention from citizens and the media…Any consumer who relies on direct shipment of wine for their wine club wines or to purchase the huge number of wines they can’t find locally and who thinks this bill won’t pass simply because it’s so retrograde is sorely mistaken.”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BeerPoet April 19, 2010

Thanks for posting the article! You’re right about it not being sexy. It’s attracting a little outrage amongst us wine and beer lovers, but less so than you’d think. Kinda surprised at the lack of traction this is getting.

This affects both wine and beer, people. Wholesalers/distributors don’t need more control. Consumers need more choice. If you currently can get wine or beer shipped to your state direct from small wineries, craft breweries and retailers, this bill could help put an end to that. At a time when we need small businesses to prosper and grow, this bill has the potential to crush a great many.

Boo! to H.R 5034 and those sponsoring it!


2 Katie Pizzuto April 19, 2010

Totally forgot to mention the source for the bill’s co-sponsors contributions: http://www.opensecrets.org

Thanks for the support, Chad. Plenty will tell you its potential affects are being exaggerated, but it’ll be a little too late to determine that in the aftermath. Fight the good fight.


3 Linsey April 19, 2010

Can someone please tell me why politicians who bring in bills on things like this, when they are given funds by specific groups connected with the subject, are not condemned for extreme conflict of interest.

The naive person inside me assumes that politicians are there to represent the people that elected them, ie the voters, not the companies that can afford to give them money to be bias. The realist in me tells me that politics is the most screwed up, corrupt, manipulative system ever created.

And who always loses… the little guy.

I hope this bill doesnt get through, this sort of thing is the tip of the iceberg.

Still at least your politicians are not buying duck for their ponds or buying tv pay per view porn films on public money like some of our politicians … or are they?


4 Linsey April 19, 2010

oopsy – should have said ‘duck houses for their ponds’ – typo


5 Kevin Hamel April 19, 2010

Katie, Nicely put, with no holds barred. This is, after all, the mob we’re up against.

Linsey, I’m afraid that this is just a part of our system of government, by which I mean that we have the right to petition our representatives. So when someone speaks up with a position with which you (we) don’t agree, we gotta speak up in response…


6 Wine Harlots April 19, 2010

The bill is in the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee at this time. Here is the link for the members on the Committee. Give a call — I’ve called all the California Representatives — hopefully this bill will be killed in committee and die the death it deserves.



7 castello April 20, 2010

go girl! We’re with you all the way!


8 Katie Pizzuto April 20, 2010

@Linsey….ours are no different than yours. Plenty have taken public money or donations and used it privately. Plenty.

@Kevin…well said. The country is founded on proper representation and if we don’t like it, we need to speak up.

@Harlots…thanks eternally for the link…will do!!

@Ed…thanks! Keep chatting the subject up so wine geeks know what’s going on. (Nice to see an avatar finally!!)


9 Don April 20, 2010

Katie, I think if this goes anywhere, the wholesalers should be required to take wines (and beer for that matter) from any winery or distillery who asks. And that they set their margins and that they control and regulate the shit out of the Wholesalers. I hate this kind of shit! What a transparent load of horsedung! I’m a little perturbed…


10 Katie Pizzuto April 20, 2010

Even if they were forced to take on the small wineries/breweries/etc. they simply wouldn’t put any effort behind selling them. It’s one thing to represent a company and another to actually move its product, and that’s the bullshit of it at the end of the day. They’re basically saying “We should be the only ones getting wines to consumers (through retailers) but we don’t feel like selling your wine, so you’ll go nowhere.” They don’t leave wineries viable options for survival, and force consumers to drink ONLY what they think we should be drinking.


11 SirRon April 20, 2010

What if food was distributed this way? Or mobile phones? I wonder where that would make it on the news…


12 Coupe 60 April 20, 2010

Katie, thanks for writing about this…I sent my congressman an email about this a week ago…

I don’t know how something like this can remotely gain any traction…It makes me so angry at the clowns that are elected in this country on both sides of the aisle…

Does anybody really think that under-aged kids are putting themselves on mailing lists, ordering some $60 bottles of Pinot Noir in the Spring and waiting until the fall for delivery, then having an adult sign for the bottles for them?

I’m certain that is a much more likely scenario than getting someone to buy them a bottle of jack, or a six of the cheapest beer in the store…because, ummm they want to drink that night…

on the other hand, I did have to punish my 15 year old the other night when I caught him buying 2009 Bordeaux Futures online… His lame excuse was that he wanted to get a wine with a little age on it for when he turned 21…


13 Katie Pizzuto April 21, 2010

@Ron….that’s actually a great question, but if we break the idea down, I still don’t think it would gain traction because in the end, you’re dealing with the SMALL GUY being affected. We can get Yellow Tail anywhere really, just like we can get Frosted Flakes anywhere. But we can’t get Twisted Oak anywhere, just like we can’t get Hudson Valley foie gras anywhere. Just like a small winery, the small food producer gets no representation and must rely on direct-to-consumer or direct-to-restaurant sales. And if this same type of legislation affected the small food guy, truth is he’d probably be fucked too because the vast majority of Americans could give a rat’s ass if you can or can’t get your foie gras through the mail…they only care about their Frosted Flakes. At least that’s my take.

@Lou…at least now I know where my 12-year-old got the idea. You’ll be hearing from me 🙂


14 Katie Pizzuto April 21, 2010

Another opportunity peeps. Follow the link to a form letter put together by Free The Grapes, which will automatically be sent to your representatives:



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