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.
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