Direct Wine Shipments to Massachusetts

direct wine shipments

Free the Grapes: 41 down, 9 to go for direct wine shipping

Both wine connoisseurs and those that enjoy an occasional glass can raise a toast together: Direct wine shipments to Massachusetts will be legal beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

The new legislation (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, § 19F) was included with the 2015 budget and expands the availability of Direct Shipper’s Permits. With its passage, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) may issue a Direct Shipper’s Permit to wineries that hold a federal basic permit and a license “in the commonwealth or any other state to manufacture and export wine; and is in the business of manufacturing, bottling or rectifying wine.” The key phrase now is in any other state.

Previously, wine shipments into Massachusetts with Direct Shipper’s Permits were restricted to wineries that were working through an approved wholesaler and that were producing more than 30,000 gallons of wine annually.

John P. Connell, P.C. itemizes the following parameters of the new legislation (“The New Law for Direct Shipping of Wine into Massachusetts”):

  • Initial licensing fee is $300.00 with a $150.00 annual renewal
  • Common carrier deliverer must obtain the signature of a recipient of legal drinking age
  • Wineries must report all shipments to the ABCC and pay excise taxes
  • Deliveries are limited to 12 cases per year with no more than nine liters per case per customer
  • Wine must be for personal consumption
  • Violations lead to stiff, progressive fines

Wine Delivery

When the law takes effect next year, there may still be a sticking point: delivering it. According to WGBH NewsVino Commerce Coming to Taxachusetts,” common carriers (like Fed Ex and UPS) would have to pay a $200 permit fee per truck if that truck is delivering wine. When you consider that common carriers operate thousands of trucks throughout the commonwealth, that permit fee quickly escalates and certainly cuts into the profit margin.

Without a corresponding change in the permit fees required for carriers, the end result may be that you can order wine from your favorite winery anywhere in the country but getting it to your door may still be a challenge.

Direct Wine Shipping

With the change to the Massachusetts law regarding direct wine shipping, that leaves nine states that still prohibit direct shipping from wineries to consumers, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.

Free the Grapes, a national grassroots coalition of wine lovers, wineries and retailers, commented in its July 11th press release: “The bill brings to a close a decade-long effort to overturn an archaic ban. The Bay State is the second largest state for wine enjoyment – after Pennsylvania – that prohibits winery direct shipping.”

With direct wine shipments to Massachusetts, it’s 41 down and nine more to go.