I have it on fairly good authority that the Founding Fathers enjoyed the occasional nip. Indeed, those august bodies were very fond of their spirits which included beer, Port, Madeira, whiskey, rum, and of course wine. In fact, the father of the Founding Fathers, none other than George Washington himself, was a prolific brewer who pioneered the distilling of whiskey from his Mount Vernon estate.
A 1799 letter from the recently retired Commander-in-Chief to his nephew advised him that Washington had just bottled “Two hundred gallons of Whiskey [that] will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better, as the demand for this article (in these parts) is brisk.” Although he was dispensing whiskey, George appears as if he was operating the 18th-century version of a wine club.
Is Wine “Free” Today?
As such, one has to think that George Washington would be disappointed in the current state of legislation that seeks to curb free wine trade. So what happened? Special interests, backed by a well-funded lobby, are what happened. Today, that entrepreneurial spirit of the former first president would have run afoul of lobbyist’s attempts to thwart the out of state sale of alcoholic beverages.
Following the repeal of the 18th-Amendment, regulation of the liquor trade devolved to each individual state. Oftentimes, these regulations bar consumers from purchasing wine directly from wineries and retails, which also would include the services of a wine club.
The hodge-podge, seemingly, ad-hoc nature of these regulations makes it impossible for wine consumers to purchase any wines they want as long as the licensed entity is willing to sell it to them. Additionally, most legislation that is devoted to the trade occurs outside the purview of consumers who have a vested interest in the outcome.
According to data supplied by the Wine Institute, whose “Free the Grapes” initiative seeks to remove the strictures placed on direct wine shippers, such as a wine club, indicates that nearly a dozen states outright forbid the practice of direct shipments of alcohol while even more have wrapped the trade in onerous regulations and oversight that makes the trade cumbersome to transact.
Nationwide, wine consumers are putting down their glasses, and picking up petitions to change the practice. Such groups as the aforementioned Wine Institute, as well as the American Wine Consumer Coalition, are seeking to change the parameters of the discussion by demanding that the preferences of the American consumer be taken into consideration when drafting and enforcing legislation regarding the prohibitions against the direct delivery of wine and spirits to responsible parties in every state.
If you have been putting off enrolling in that great wine club you have heard such great things about for fear of government regulations, then now is the time for you to raise your voice to make sure that your opinions are taken into consideration along with the vested interests of paid lobbyists in the Statehouses across America.
I can’t help but believe that George Washington would have certainly raised his glass to that suggestion.