Monday, September 21, 2015

Pennsylvania gets part of it right and part of it wrong, in arresting a wine collection's owner

Read this , and then let's talk.

1. Yes, it is illegal in every U.S. state to sell wine to various members of the public, without a license from the applicable state liquor control commission.
2. Yes, it seems that this gentleman knew it was wrong to sell his own wines, and to buy and resell other wines, to many members of the public, without a license.

However,
3. Many owners of fine wine collections will sell or trade bottles amongst themselves, or they will use various auction houses to sell their wines. The law seems to turn a blind eye towards that. I think the problem here was that this gentleman would sell wine to anyone who contacted him--operating more like a wine shop than an occasional seller of personal wine--and this was made worse by his offering to obtain other wines for customers to purchase. But admittedly there is not a lot of distinction between those examples, and it should either all be legal or all be illegal.

4. State liquor laws are insanely antiquated. The three-tier distribution system (maker sells to distributor; distributor sells to retailer; retailers sells to consumer) involves price markups at each sale, and is insanely inefficient. The only reason it exists is the immense lobbying power of the distributors. Also, the law views wine as immoral and sinful, a view I cannot share.

5. Destroying a fine wine collection is nuts.