Winebits 509: Ancient wine, direct shipping, Amazon

ancient wineThis week’s wine news: Very ancient wine, about 5,000 yeas old from Italy, plus on-line wine sales run into more snags

Older than before: Italians may have been drinking wine since the fourth millennium BC – more than 5,000 years earlier than previously thought. Researchers found large storage jars in a cave in Monte Kronio in Sicily that date to the Copper Age that tested positive for wine residue. No word yet on whether the wine was red or white; further tests are planned to figure that out.

Only in Pennsylvania: The blog has followed the hilarity and hi-jinks of the state store system in Pennsylvania – grocery store wine vending machines! – and this story fits in nicely. State law currently allows consumers to buy directly from distributors, which is illegal in most of the country. The only catch is that consumers can’t have it shipped to their house, but have to pick the wine up at a state store. However, once the state liquor bosses and the distributors realized what was going on, they immediately made changes to the program to make it impractical for consumers. The state wants to raise the price of a bottle of a wine to include shipping, so that a $15 bottle could cost $30, while the distributors will start to limit wines that can be sold to consumers. Not to worry, also, if this seems too convoluted for those of us who aren’t liquor law attorneys. It’s probably confusing to most in Pennsylvania, too.

Not even the retail killer: W. Blake Gray, writing on, bursts another bubble for anyone who thought Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods meant easier on-line wine sales. He delves into the magical realism that is called tied house, part of the the three-tier system, and which he explains as well as anyone can who isn’t paid by the hour. Suffice it to say, the system restricts what Amazon can do with Whole Foods and its on-line wine sales.