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Bill allowing wine shipping to consumers' coming back to the General Assembly

Delaware Public Media

Delaware is one of only three states left that doesn’t allow residents to ship wine to their doorsteps, but that could change in the next General Assembly.

In some cases like Harvest Ridge Winery, Delawareans can purchase alcohol from the producer, but it still cannot be shipped to them.

Under Delaware’s three tier system, bill co-sponsor State Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman (R-Clayton) says that means people in other states have more access to Delaware-based wine than Delawareans do.

“I can’t get Harvest Ridge wine shipped to me in Delaware," Spiegelman says. "But if I were to move to Maryland, Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it’s no problem having Harvest Ridge wine shipped directly to me.”

Co-sponsor State Rep. Mike Smith (R-Pike Creek) adds this is a compromise bill, not covering wine clubs, craft breweries or liquor, but if this passes, they can expand later.

“While this once may have been an issue, this is an issue that has been resolved in many other states. And like everything in our state, we border so many other states and when they’re all doing it it’s coming across our lines every single day through, in my district, people just going over the line in Pennsylvania, and ordering through their father in law or their friends or whoever and bringing it right in.”

Most pushback comes from union workers who carry the products from producer to warehouse or distributor, and from distributors that cry lost revenue.

But Spiegelman says none of this has happened in the other 47 states that allow direct purchase.

“Not a single union job, and not a single brick and mortar store has been shut down from direct shipment of wine," he says. "And in fact in most places, those places see an uptick.”

He adds new wineries struggle under the three tier system, having to convince distributors that their product is worth carrying.

“The problem is you can’t prove that until you’ve got a following," Spiegelman says. "You can’t get a following until you’ve gotten to market. You can’t get to market until you’ve got a following. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle that’s also helping to keep down the craft industry in our state.”

He also adds that retail stores are not losing liquor sales, but would actually boost sales. As for distributors that express concern over loss, he says they're "not carrying it anyways."

"I mean if we’re buying wine from the Finger Lakes that you don’t carry, well then you’re not losing revenue, it’s a product that you don’t have by your choice,” Spiegelman says.

Spiegelman says currently there are issues with illegal wine shipments by marking the box as olive oil or other goods, or ordering through a less-than-reputable website that “doesn’t care” about the restrictions.

Ultimately, he says constituents want change, and both representatives expect some version of the bill to pass in the next General Assembly, especially because the legislature has gotten significantly younger.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.