Wine-drinker lobby gives California laws an A+; New York gets a D+

Napa Valley Merlot grapes after a night harvest.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

California gets an A+ grade and New York a D+ in a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based American Wine Consumer Coalition.

California is rated as one of the most wine-friendly states in “Consuming Concerns: the 2013 State-by-State Report Card on Consumer Access to Wine.”

“Eighty years after passage of the 21st Amendment,” the report points out, “many of the alcohol and wine-related laws put in place in the 1930s are still in place in most states, despite a cultural, economic and commercial reality that is starkly different from the 1930s.”


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The report takes a look at how friendly the laws of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are to wine consumers. “Nearly every state imposes restrictions of one sort or another that deprive wine consumers of access to the wines they want.”

But not California.

Twelve states -- Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Utah -- got failing grades for prohibiting winery-to-consumer or retailer-to-consumer shipment of wine, buying wine in grocery stores, Sunday sales of alcohol or forbidding wine buffs from bring their own wine to restaurants.

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In some cases, consumers can buy only those wines sold through state monopolies.

California ranks No. 1 with a grade of A+ with pretty much everything allowed and no government control of wine sales. According to the report, the state’s ”wine consumers enjoy outstanding access to wine whether from specialty wine shops or grocery stores, as well as via direct shipment from both wineries and wine retailers inside the state and outside the state.”


But California isn’t the only friend to wine drinkers. Missouri also gets an A+ for “the most accommodating wine access laws in America.” And Nebraska is a candidate for valedictorian with its own A+ grade, “blessed by living under the most consumer-friendly wine laws in the country.” Wait, New Hampshire gets an A+, too. And Oregon. And Virginia. Getting a little crowded at the top, no?

New York isn’t anywhere near the top, though, ranking No. 30 among the states with a grade of D+ “due to its prohibition on grocery store wine sales and direct shipping from wine retailers to consumers.”

Prices are generally higher in New York, too. In Southern California we’re lucky to have such an energetic retail wine scene, competitive enough to mean lower markups and plenty of in-shop tastings. It’s a great place to buy wine -- and to learn about wine.


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