15 years since Granholm, and how much hasn’t changed in the three-tier system

GranholmThe Supreme Court’s Granholm decision was supposed to make it possible for us to buy wine from out-of-state retailers and on-line. So why didn’t it?

This is the first of two parts looking at how the century-old three-tier system still prevents us from buying wine on-line or from out-of-state retailers. Today, part I: The Supreme Court’s 2005 Granholm decision, and why it didn’t change three-tier as much as everyone hoped. Friday, part II: Dear Supreme Court: Please fix three-tier.

Fifteen years ago this spring, the Supreme Court made it possible to buy wine from an out-of-state winery in its Granholm decision. The court ruled that states had to treat wineries in- and out-of-state the same way. So, if residents could buy directly from an in-state producer, then they had to be allowed to buy wine from an out-of-state producer as well. This opened the direct-to-consumer wine market, which is worth about $3 billion today

Many smart people also thought Granholm would open the retail wine market, so that consumers could buy wine over the Internet and from companies like Amazon. But that never happened (save for the rare exception like Wine.com), and I explain why in a freelance piece I wrote for Meininger’s Wine Business International.

And why didn’t Granholm do that? Because state lawmakers, regulators, and the courts still go by what’s called the “public health and safety” standard that was set up by the political compromise that ended Prohibition and gave us three-tier. The doctrine says that if a liquor regulation protects the public health and safety, then it’s constitutional. And each group – and particularly the courts in almost every decision since Granholm – still insists it isn’t safe for wine drinkers in one state to buy wine from a retailer in another state. So it remains illegal.

Yes, this is silly and outdated in the second decade of the 21st century – but that’s three-tier for you.

More about three-tier, Granholm, and direct shipping
Tennessee residency law: Did the three-tier system come crashing down yesterday?
Is the coronavirus pandemic the beginning of changes to the three-tier system?
Direct shipping loses a big one

Wine of the week: McGuigan The Plan 2016

McGuigan The PlanMcGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility

Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?

Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.

In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Imported by Palm Bay International

Winebits 653: Tony Terlato, Canadian direct shipping, recycled beer

Tony Terlato

Tony Terlato

This week’s wine news: Legendary importer and producer Tony Terlato dies, plus one Canadian province won’t make it easier to buy wine and Guinness recycles leftover beer

Tony Terlato: Tony Terlato, whose self-named company was one of the U.S.’ leading wine importers and eventually became a high-end producer as well, died last week. He was 86. Among Terlato’s accomplishments: Popularizing Italian pinot grigo in the U.S. I was lucky enough to meet Terlato in the blog’s early days, at a massive high-end California wine tasting in Dallas. He was polite and a gentleman, even though he had no idea who I was. Terlato’s philosophy always struck a chord with me, even though his wines were usually too pricey for the blog: “No matter what you’re doing, if you’re not making decisions for quality reasons, you’re going backwards. Quality is the only thing that endures.”

Ontario says no: Canadian liquor laws, if not quite as convoluted as many of those in the U.S., have their own special charm. The province of Ontario, for example, has decided not to make it easier for its residents to buy Canadian wine from elsewhere in the country, reports WineLaw.ca. Currently, Ontario residents can’t buy wine directly from a producer in other provinces, but must buy it from the province-owned liquor stores, the infamous LCBO. Apparently, the LCBO didn’t want to lose its monopoly.

Beer into Christmas trees: Hundreds of thousands of unused kegs of Guinness have been used to fertilize Christmas trees during the coronavirus lockdown, reports Britain’s Press Association. The project is one of several undertaken by the Irish brewery to use millions of liters of stout, beer and ale from closed pubs and bars. This is only the second time Guinness reduced operations to the minimal level required to keep its yeast stocks alive in the past century.

The Trump zombie wine tariff is lurking over the horizon

wine tariff

The Trump zombie tariff is lurking over the horizon, which means the price of European wine could double.

Why haven’t we been able to kill the Trump zombie wine tariff, which is bad economics and bad public policy?

Just when it seemed safe to drink European wine without worrying that it could double in price, the Trump zombie wine tariff is lurking over the horizon.

That’s the 100 percent tariff on almost all European wine, which the Trump Administration proposed in February. The administration backed off then, raising tariffs on European airplane parts instead. Which made perfectly good sense, since the original trade dispute was about airplane parts.

But the proposal is back. Last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed tariffs on nearly $3.1 billion worth of European products and that would raise the current wine tariff from 25 percent to 100 percent.

In other words, effectively doubling the price of European wine in the U.S. Some have gone as far as to call the 100 percent tariff the worst threat to the U.S. wine business – imported and domestic – since Prohibition.

None of this makes any sense, and not just because this whole thing is about airplane parts.

• The world economy is in recession. So why would any sane person consider raising taxes?

• The coronavirus. So why would any sane person consider raising taxes?

• France’s so-called digital tax on U.S. companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google has somehow become part of the dispute, though why the federal government needs to protect these giga-billion dollar behemoths is beyond me. And doesn’t President Trump hate Amazon?

The good news, if there is any, is that most of the people I talked to say the tariff proposal is likely empty bluster, more posturing from an administration that has perfected bluster. Two wine industry officials, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said they didn’t expect the 100 percent levy to be approved. One, who has been closely involved with negotiations, said, “My personal view is that the most likely outcome is no change” until the final World Trade Organization ruling later this year on the original aircraft parts dispute.

Having said that, this is no time for slacking off. After all, we all know how difficult it is to kill zombies. Hence, if you oppose the 100 percent tariff, you can leave a comment with the U.S. Trade Representative at this link. The comment period ends on July 26.

Image courtesy of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, using a Creative Commons license

More on the zombie wine tariff:
Trump Administration backs off 100 percent wine tariff
Welcome to Sherwood: Robin Hood takes on the wine tariffs
Panic wine buying

Fourth of July 2020

The blog is off today for the Fourth of July, but will return Monday with our usual features. Until then, a drone’s eye view of fireworks to celebrate the 244th birthday of the United States. (Video courtesy of GoPro via You Tube)

Enjoy the holiday — and remember why this experiment in democracy still matters after almost 2 1/2 centuries.

Fourth of July wine 2020

forth of july wine 2020Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:

MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.

Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “20150702_182103000_iOS” by annisette64 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Wine of the week: Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2019

pedroncelli roseCalifornia’s Pedroncelli rose is one of the best pinks from the 2019 vintage – balanced, fruity, and delicious

It’s not easy making quality rose out of the zinfandel grape, and not just because zinfandel tends to make a heavier wine. It’s also because well-made zinfandel roses don’t necessarily taste like the roses most consumers expect – light and fresh and crisp. Which is why the California Pedroncelli rose is worth writing about, for it offers zinfandel’s fruit and spice in a pleasing and enjoyable way.

The Pedroncelli rose ($12, sample, 13.7%) is always top-notch every vintage, but the 2019 is one of the best I have tasted from anywhere this rose season, and certainly and among the best the winery has made in many years. It isn’t especially heavy, and the spice – and even a little pepper – is pleasingly noticeable in the middle, after a burst of zinfandel-ish berry fruit. Plus, the wine finishes cleanly and doesn’t feel syrupy or overdone in the mouth.

Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on on its own, or enjoy it with almost any Fourth of July barbecue.