Tasting Tuesday -New Jersey Shipping Laws

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Shipping Laws in the Soprano State are Ripe for Change

-Guest Writer, Roland Hulme-Newjerseyinabottle

When you hear the words ‘New Jersey,’ wine is probably not the first image that pops into your head – unless it’s to conjure up the image of a jug of Carlo Rossi, sitting in the middle of Tony Soprano’s dinner table.

However, the Garden State actually has a long and prestigious history of wine making. Early settlers found the shores of the Garden State teeming with native grapes, and even christened a region in the southern part of the state ‘Vineland.’

In pre-revolutionary times, New Jersey’s winemakers were already producing world-class wine; and today Jersey stands as the sixth biggest wine-producing state in America, with viticulture the fastest growing form of agriculture.

Yet, New Jersey’s wine industry is hampered from reaching its full potential by the state’s needlessly restrictive licensing laws; most notably a ban on direct shipment of wine to eager consumers.

Unlike the majority of the United States, wine drinkers in New Jersey can’t order bottles of wine to be shipped directly to their homes; meaning they’re forced to drink whatever their local liquor store deigns to make available.

These restrictions have a serious impact on New Jersey’s 24 domestic wineries; ensuring their customer base remains incredibly limited. Most wineries in the Garden State are reduced to selling their wine direct from the vineyard itself, or through a few local distributors and restaurants; as they’re unable to legally ship their product elsewhere.

That’s right; if a wine lover in California, Connecticut or even just a county on the other side of the state wants to enjoy a bottle of Jersey’s finest, they’re required by law to travel to the vineyard and pick it up in person.

Ostensibly, the ban on direct shipment of wine stands in place to prevent underage drinking; even though shipping companies are required to have each delivery signed for by an of-age adult (and most kids are into beer and wine coolers, not $20 bottles of wine that take a week to arrive.)

In reality, the ban is maintained for the benefit of the state’s liquor store owners; who don’t want to lose out on potential revenue by allowing customers to order their wine directly, instead of buying it through them.

Certainly, if direct shipping to New Jersey consumers becomes legal, it’s fair to assume that some wine lovers will take advantage and order wine directly from vineyards throughout the United States.

However, with shipping costs on a crate of wine approaching nearly $50, it’s doubtful that anybody but the most dedicated connoisseur would take that route. For most of us, the local liquor store will remain the cheapest and most convenient place to pick up a bottle; and the impact on their profit margins would be negligible.

Fortunately, New Jersey state senators Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Brian Stack (D-Hudson) have proposed a bill to overturn this unfair ruling; which will hopefully pass a vote later this year.

For New Jersey’s wine producers, the benefit of legalizing direct shipping could be immeasurable. Direct shipping would open up a plethora of potential new customers from all across the United States; and the more New Jersey wine is sampled and appreciated, the better known it will become.

While the Garden State will never rival California or Oregon in terms of volume, the state produces some truly outstanding wines and innovative wine making techniques, which deserve to be recognized. Hopefully, the rest of the country will soon be able to appreciate them; since while direct shipping remains illegal, New Jersey is needlessly limiting the growth of one of its most promising industries.

If you would like to learn more about New Jersey and NJ shipping laws, please visit Roland at: Newjerseyinabottle.com

Cheers!

-Adrienne, PIWC

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  1. I wish as consumers we could just buy wine from whomever we wnated!

  2. I know. Too many hands in The Jersey pot

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