Thursday, June 7, 2018

Dems push NY legislative action on wine-sales rules

ALBANY -- Two bills introduced by Upstate Democrats are bouncing around in the New York State Legislature. If they become law, they would redraw the way businesses will find the wines they want to buy and sell, and could result in what one opponent says “almost no access to older vintage wines.”

It is not clear whether either bill -- NY A10737, introduced by Assembly Member Carrie Woerner (D-113, Saratoga and Washington counties), and NY S05437, introduced by Senator Terrence Murphy (R-40, Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam counties) -- is pressing enough to see any action in the current session which ends June 20.

The publication Grub Street has one of the more thorough yet succinct reports on the possibilities that I've seen. Here is an excerpt:
"Currently, merchants and restaurants seeking, say, a certain Rioja might be able to buy it from a wholesaler, but can also purchase the wine from another entity if they want more than the wholesaler has in stock. The language of the proposed bills seeks to empower what are termed the “primary American source of supply,” or wholesalers (a.k.a. the Empire Merchants and the Southern Wine & Spirits of the industry). 

"The new rules would give any one, and only one, wholesaler control of any label, so individual winemakers, or “any single brand,” becomes an exclusive part of the wholesaler’s portfolio. It’s effectively a monopoly, so anyone who isn’t concerned about the prospect of fewer lip-smacking Jura reds might be worried about steep price hikes that could result from a newly homogenized market.

"A second implication that has wine drinkers reeling concerns the often-extraordinary impact that wine shops will have to compete and stand out by selling interesting, older bottles. Current rules allow certain merchants to buy wine directly from sources beyond wholesalers, including the cellars of private collectors. Several of the best wine shops do this; it’s what keeps the city’s wine scene diverse and interesting. And as writers like Jason Wilson have argued, the ability of merchants to specialize and sell wines made from more obscure grapes (or from far-flung regions) conveys the added benefit of biodiversity and environmental stewardship, a good remedy against the tide of industrial bottles."
 You can read the entire article here. It frames the discussion from the viewpoint of how the bills could affect New York City, but it actually pertains to the entire state.

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