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Mar 11

Kentucky and Wine Shipping Laws

Let me be honest. The wine shipping laws in Kentucky are convoluted and confusing. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand them very well. Based on a recent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, I think the laws are improving. But they’re not there yet.

I think this is the situation. I can happily order online or over the phone from a winery. This is good, as I’ve had wine clubs can me in the last year based on my state. Also, small wineries in Kentucky (and all wineries in Kentucky are small) can now happily ship to both in-state and out-of-state consumers. There’s a catch to all this. The wineries, both in-state and out-of-state, must produce no more than 50,000 gallons of wine annually. Any more than that and it’s a no go for everyone.

Now, apparently Kentucky requires out-of-state wineries to have a $100 license and fill out too much paperwork. They can, however, bypass the state inspection process that in-state wineries much go through. Not only that, but I think that without the license, they can be prosecuted because shipping that wine would be a felony. In-state wineries are held to the same standards, but include the inspection.

It all gets more confusing when you start looking at Kentucky’s ridiculous dry country, wet county, and moist county policy. I live in a wet county (I think), as are most of the counties in Northern Ky. There are also dry counties, where you have to drive to the next county to get a drink. (Honestly, I think this promotes drinking and driving rather than preventing it, but that’s for another day.) There are also moist counties, and I believe I went to school in one of those. Owensboro was certainly a wet town, but I’m pretty sure it was located in a dry county. I’m unsure as to whether any winery can ship into a dry or moist county. If you were a winery, would you want to go through the hassle of finding out?

Somewhere in there, the three-tier distribution system we all read so much about ties in. I know wholesalers are NOT happy with the decision to allow small wineries to ship into the state.  Not that it matters. As far as I can tell, so many wineries are so wary of Kentucky and their convoluted laws that they won’t ship to us anyway. There are very few online retailers who will ship wine our way either.

So we are left with what we find on our store shelves, what will fit in the suitcase, well-wrapped and checked, or what we ship home ourselves through the proper channels. Those seem like pretty good options, so why am I frustrated? Because there is a big wide Internet world of wine retailing out there, and I’d love to experience it instead of just reading about it. There are also several different wine clubs I’d like to join that ship wine that is hard to find in our area, such as NY specific wine, or a winery that isn’t sold in stores.

I know I’ve got some local (as in Ky local) wine store folks reading the blog. Feel free to weigh in down in the comment section and clear up the confusion.

Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb 7, 2007
Kentucky Wine Distribution – Apellation America, Feb 5, 2007

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Posted by Michelle at 11:57 pm in Local | Permalink | Comments (16)

16 Responses to “Kentucky and Wine Shipping Laws”

  1. All Evolve says:

    I’m just a state away in TN, and I definitely know how you feel. Luckily, my mother-in-law lives in Sacramento, CA and we have our wine-club wines shipped to her and she then ships them to us. It’s all ridiculous, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before these crazy laws are history – or at least I hope.

  2. I recently wrote an article for appellationamerica.com on exactly this subject, for those that might like to read it, I try to spell out just what has happened to the wineries in KY and the complexities of ALL shipping laws across the USA.
    The article in the Louisville Courier-Journal painted a bright and rosy picture for comsumers and wineries in KY that is just not true. Our organization, The Northern Kentucky Vintners & Grape Growers Association is working hard to make changes that are good for the consumer and the growing wine industry in KY. Next year we are trying to get wine into the grocery stores, as they do in most states, as well as repealing SB 82 and getting better legislation passed.
    FYI, we have a great event coming up – Our 2nd annual NKY Wine Festival at the Alexandria Fairgrounds, Sat., May 19 from 2-9pm. No shipping required. :)

  3. HGH says:

    Very nice post. I liked your writing style and the way you covered the topic.

  4. Tom Mace says:

    Imagine my disbelief on moving to my new Kentucky home when I discovered that no Internet wine store will ship to the state. For your orientation, I moved here from Washington State where you can buy fine wine on line as well as in any supermarket.
    For starters, the Kentucky laws that have created this state of affairs are patently unconstitutional, not that this seems to bother anyone in authority. But looking further into it, I discover that it’s all a tangled mess of conflicting interests, all scared to death.
    Come on, folks, this isn’t 1950’s Europe. If you can’t survive without consumer funded protectionism, you don’t deserve to be in business. If you are a small grower with a decent product, you can only benefit from ready access to an electronic market. And if you are a distributor or physical retailer, please note that these businesses do extremely well in states where they compete with an online market, despite the sales tax issue. If you really think you can’t prosper in a free marketplace, please get out of the wine business and do something else.

  5. Acomplia says:

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  6. My wife and I recently moved to Kentucky from northwest Ohio (she’s actually from the Finger Lakes region of New Tork, which is why we’re into wine). We had a partial history of wine in Kentucky from two wineries we went to, as well as overheard some other comments that just made me curious as to the state of wine in Kentucky. I’m unfortunately glad to see that my confusion was warranted.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with this post. I think it’s abosolutely frustrating that no one will ship wine to Kentucky. Some websites USED to but checking back with those same websites, they won’t even ship to Kentucky anymore. Like you said, there are wines that you can’t even find in stores around here, and the only way some people can afford to get them (I certainly cannot afford to drive to Michigan let alone California for what I want to try every month) on line. I think it’s very unfair.

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  9. Ron says:

    Microbreweries don’t have the same problem. They can ship anywhere, and breweries in other states can ship to KY.
    Don’t see the difference! EXCEPT some small minded vintners are trying to protect their hold on wine in KY. Competition has always resulted in better products, mergers and acquitisions. Let the cream rise to the top, the dregs fall to the bottom and, if we’re lucky, some KY’an will combine some old and new skills and offer an ‘Angels Share’ product. HINT HINT

  10. Mindy says:

    Does anyone know what the current and CORRECT shipping laws are for shipping wines INTO KY? I keep hearing so many conflicting stories that I don’t know what is what? Thanks.

  11. Alan Hanisch says:

    We’re finally coming your way via Paul Meyer of tastefinewines@insightbb.com coming to visit us

  12. Carolyn says:

    I loved your blog!!! I finally understand the problem with getting wine shipped. I lived in CA for 10 years and belonged to several wine clubs. What a nice thing. I think it all boils down to money!

  13. Andrea says:

    I recently moved from NKY – where wine was as easy as popping into the Kroger annex store – to central KY in a dry county. And it’s nearly impossible to find a store that sells wine when I do leave the dry county to go to wet one. Those that do sell wine are either the kind as a woman I’m far too afraid to go into the store alone, or they only sell mass produced by-the-gallon-wine I’ve never even heard of (and I am unwilling to try). I can’t find my Gnarly Head, my Chateau St Michelle, my Cupcake Vineyards.

    It saddens me. Because I like wine. A lot.

  14. steve says:

    I’ve lived in Kentucky ten years and would really like to buy wine from out of state wineries. I would also like to buy wines from local, Kentucky wineries. However, until I can buy an out of state wine, I will not buy any of the Kentucky wines. None at all. If we all would do that, maybe Kentucky would change these terrible laws.

  15. RudyP says:

    The real question about wine shipment into KY is how do we get the state law changed? Like many others I enjoy many different wines and like to try smaller vinters and/or bottlings that simply aren’t available in the liquor stores locally. KY’s restriction on interstate commerce of a legal product is hardly individual freedom & responsibility!

  16. W.Frank Sieg says:

    I won’t buy Kentucky wine, who is raving about it anyway?

    Competition makes everything better but here in Kentucky competition is a dirty word whispered only in dark corners wherever we old capitalists happen to gather.

    Want to start a cab company, NO! Already have too many certainly can’t compete. Outside wine allowed? NO! no fair competition here!

    To the vintner that responded above unless you can show me where your vineyard is fighting such laws, I have no use for your business.

    To everyone else, Whole Foods carries some nice selections, Pedestal, Martinelli, Anthology, Luca.

    Liquor Barn also in addition to it’s ‘gallon sized’ swill has a private cellar featuring superb higher dollar selections like Paul Hobbs.


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