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THURSDAY THORNS
10/07/2010
Thursday Thorns: The Report Card
CONSUMERS FIGHT BACK: The American Wine Consumer Council

Our Grade: A+



There is a piece of legislation currently being considered in the Congress of these United States that threatens to make wine consumers who would buy wine over the Internet into second class citizens. We have commented on this legislation before, and we continue to be incensed by the brazen attempt by States and the liquor and wine distribution wholesalers to eliminate your rights. Let us be clear. The three-tier system of producer, wholesaler and retailer in this country is entirely a creation of government. It serves the wineries not at all, and it serves only those retailers who believe they should not have to compete. It ill-serves the consumers, not because wholesalers should not exist for those producers who like that model, but because it is artificially imposed on every producer, and it robs consumers of choice and of price advantage.

Now someone is fighting back. Today, the formation of the American Wine Consumer Coalition (AWCC) was announced. It is still in its formative stages and has not yet begun to fight. But it will. It will fight to protect you, the wine consumer by first preventing the passage of legislation that ignores your needs and, instead, panders to the often unnecessary third tier. Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine endorses the AWCC and urges you to join and to support its efforts.

Below is the full text of its opening salvo:


American Wine Consumer Coalition Launches to Raise Up The Voice of Consumers—

(Napa, CALIF—October 6, 2010): In Michigan, legislators stripped consumers of their ability to have wine shipped to them from retailers...without ever hearing from consumers. In Illinois, the legislature did the same, again without consulting consumers. In Washington, DC, legislators heard testimony on a bill that would severely impact consumer access to wine...without inviting any testimony from consumers. In fact, when lawmakers and regulators around the country enact rules and laws affecting consumer access to wine, consumers are never consulted. There is a simple reason for this: Wine consumers have no voice.

Enter "The American Wine Consumer Coalition" (AWCC).
(http://www.facebook.com/americanwineconsumercoalition)

Launched yesterday in its initial phase as a Facebook entity, the AWCC has the mission of representing the needs and desires of the wine consumer and wine lover in the United States and to be their voice. The AWCC aims to bringing together wine consumers from across the country in a coalition that will give voice to wine consumers' concerns regarding their rights, their access to wines and their inclusion in policy discussions surrounding consumer access to wine. As well, the AWCC seeks to create an organization that will deliver to consumers educational and lifestyle benefits that speak to their well-documented love of food, travel and wine.

CONSUMERS LEFT OUT OF POLICY DISCUSSIONS ON ACCESS TO WINE

"The 'Three-Tier System' of alcohol distribution that is in effect in most states is misnamed," said Tom Wark, an organizer of the AWCC. "This system of government regulated alcohol distribution should be called the 'Four-Tier System' to recognize the consumers' critical place in that system. Yet consumers are ignored when alcohol policy and laws are debated and enacted, leading to a system that does not take into account the needs and desires of real wine consumers. Our goal is to end this dismissal of wine consumers by creating a coalition of consumers that can raise up the voice of the 'fourth tier'."

The goals of the newly created American Wine Consumer Coalition include:

 

  1. Gather under the AWCC roof a supportive and educated community of wine lovers and consumers who are willing to help advance a pro-consumer agenda where alcohol regulations are concerned.
  2. Advance the interests of wine consumers in state and national bodies and institutions where laws and regulations governing consumer access to wine are determined.
  3. Create state-based chapters of the AWCC and tools for members to contact their representatives when issues arise in state legislatures that affect their status as a wine consumer.
  4. Deliver benefits to wine consumers that support their desire learn about wine and enjoy a lifestyle in which fine wine, travel and culinary education and experiences are a significant element.
  5. Provide members of the AWCC with access to unique and original wine-related information and events for their continuing education and enjoyment.

 

Of primary concern to wine consumers in America is gaining access to the hundreds of thousands of wines that are now available in the American marketplace. To have access to these wines consumers must have rights to buy and have wines shipped to them from out-of-state wineries, wine stores and importers. Too often the majority of wines simply aren't sold in the various states, making inter-state direct shipment a critical element in wine consumers' lives. In addition, wine consumers ought to have the right to carry back with them or arrange to ship back home the wines they purchase when visiting wine regions outside their own state. Often "personal importation laws" make this extraordinarily difficult for consumers. Finally, many of the rules and regulations that govern the direct shipment of wine to consumers place extraordinary burdens on consumers, such as forcing them to visit a winery before they can actually join a wine club and receive regular shipments.

The AWCC is currently working to gain consumer support via its very active Facebook presence. This will be followed by the development of further communications initiatives, the introduction of member benefits and the introduction of advocacy efforts on behalf of consumers.

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