‘Free the grapes!’ NJ restriction on shipping wine could soon be lifted
Efforts are underway to change what some consider to be a bizarre and unfair law in the Garden State that limits consumer choice in buying wine directly from a winery in the United States.
Right now, if a winery produces more than 250,000 gallons a year, New Jersey law forbids direct shipping from that winery to an adult customer at their home or business.
This means unless a winery is quite small, wine drinkers cannot have their favorite beverage shipped to them.
In response, a Free the Grapes campaign has been launched by representatives of multiple wine industry associations to change things.
During a news conference in Trenton on Wednesday, Jeremy Benson, the executive director of Free the Grapes, pointed out the only other state in the nation that has a “cap capacity” law is Ohio
He noted 250,000 gallons of wine will create about 106,000 cases of wine, “which means that a medium-sized winery [...] cannot ship directly to a New Jersey consumer.”
He stressed the issue here is consumer choice.
“It’s all about the ability for New Jersey consumers to purchase the wines that they want to buy in the manner in which they want to buy them.”
There are about 9,000 wineries across the nation, but only 396 of them are small enough to ship their product to New Jersey consumers.
He said there is pending legislation in the state Senate and the Assembly to remove the capacity cap, and these measures would not only expand consumer choice in the Garden State “but they would also create new opportunities for America’s 9,000 wineries across the country, and it will create a new tax revenue base for the state of New Jersey.”
Terri Beirne, the eastern counsel for the Wine Institute, says a study by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest at Rutgers University concluded New Jersey would gain $4 million a year in revenue from the sales and excise taxes wineries and license fees.
She said the law should be changed because it’s unfair and New Jerseyans like their wine. New Jersey ranks 17th in the nation for direct consumer wine shipments.
“The state has consistently ranked No. 5 in the country for per capita wine consumption," she said.
She explained the law was created to protect wine retail stores in New Jersey but multiple studies in other states have demonstrated that sales at these stores would not be hurt. In fact, they would probably increase.
State Sens. Declan O’Scanlon R-Monmouth, and Vin Gopal D-Monmouth, are sponsoring a measure to allow the delivery of wine to consumer in New Jersey from any winery, no matter how large or small it is.