The State of Pennsylvania Hates Wine Bloggers 10/02/12
Every once in a while, I’m reminded that I live in Pennsylvania, a state whose inexplicable alcohol laws have routinely-
…routinely restricted my ability to drink what I want (not to mention when I want). It just so happens that I received another such reminder not even a week ago, when I was offered press samples of a certain brand’s wines and leaped at the opportunity, only to find my joyous ascent stymied by the fact that my residency in Pennsylvania would disqualify me from receiving them. And unlike the promotional entities that had sent me samples in the past, these fine folks proved unwilling to route the wines through my friend in New Jersey, which I had personally found to be a more than adequate solution, scrupulousness be damned.
But I bear no ill will against [redacted] Wines (though I doubt it would have been too difficult to read my About Me page or Sample Policy before offering me samples). They’re just playing it safe. No, my ire rests with the sorry state setting the policies that have brought about this equally sorry state of affairs.
If you’re familiar with the laws surrounding interstate shipment of wine, congratulations! If you aren’t, all you really need to know for now is that we Pennsylvania residents can’t legally have wine shipped to us directly from out-of-state; we must instead purchase it from a state-approved “Direct Wine Shipper.” Then the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will receive the wine for us (but only if it isn’t already available through the state system, in which case we must buy it that way), tack on some nifty taxes and fees, and allow us to take it home – provided we’re also willing to sign an affidavit confirming our age and intent. Add to this the fact that every wine store in the state must be owned by the state, which results in virtually identical offerings at every store throughout PA, and one begins to suspect this may not be the best place to live if you’re a wine fan.
The state’s rebuttal, of course, would be that PA residents can acquire wines not available through the state system – we just have to jump through more hoops before we can get them than those fortunate few individuals blessed with the ability to live elsewhere. Here’s the thing, though: when I’m offered free wine for review purposes, in my capacity as a wine blogger, part of the arrangement is generally that I don’t have to pay. And while I would theoretically be willing to endure the inconvenience of having press samples sent to my local PLCB store for pickup, it would be patently preposterous to pay for the privilege of receiving something free. What’s more I couldn’t do this anyway for these particular wines, even if I were willing to pay the state’s middleman fees, because the list of approved Direct Wine Shippers is pretty paltry and this particular sender isn’t on it.
Now, what are my options? Turns out I’m in luck! It seems two of the five wines I would have been sent in this case are indeed available through the PLCB! So I may not be able to taste all five wines for free, but hey, why would I want to do that when I can taste two of them at full price instead? It’s win-win!
You may be inclined to write this rant off as little more than a puerile tantrum: the ramblings of an ornery oenophile pissed off over an isolated instance of failed quaffing. And you’re right – I am pissed off. I am also justified.
Few things in this world are free, but free wine damn well ought to be one of them.
Have your own story of being screwed over by state law? Feel free to chime in!