The United States has come a long way. Decades ago, we were best known for wines like Boones Farm and Pink Catawba. But, in a relatively short period, the United States has caught up with some of the older wine regions of Europe, who have been at it for centuries. We have become one of the major players, producing a line-up of amazingly diverse domestic wines that have comfortably taken their place alongside the highest caliber wines in the world.
According to most recent studies, the United States is rated, in terms of quantity, as the fourth largest wine producing country in the world. We follow Italy (in first place), France (in second place), and Spain (coming in third).
The good news is that all of our fifty states are making class-act wines, with California leading the charge. In terms of quantity, California is followed by Washington, New York State, and Oregon, in that order. We are apt to find only wine from these top four states sold in our local wine shops, but there are wonderful wines being made in “the other forty-six.”
The sad news is that it is very hard for us to get our hands on those other wines. I have managed to procure some of these elusive gems by either traveling to the state in person or having a friend bring them back when visiting. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I can get my hands on a few through charity auctions.
The fact is that there are incredible award-winning wines being made in states like Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, and many more. Although many out-of-state wineries can ship to other states, we are still not privy to tasting or learning about these wines through our local wine shops and distributors. So, they remain a mystery to most.
It seems not a little bit ironic that we can get single vineyard small production wines from Hungary, South Africa, Sicily, Austria, Uruguay—but it is nearly impossible to get a wine from one of our neighboring states. It is all in the state’s hands, after all, as was defined by the aftermath of Prohibition. Who knew back then that the future of wine would hold such promise in America? But, the way the system has devolved in the United States, we basically have fifty different countries that all have individual rules.
Six states ban the sale of wine on Sundays. Three states completely control their sales of wine, which eliminates a free marketplace—and Pennsylvania is on that list. There are fifteen states that ban residents from bringing a bottle from home to a restaurant. Currently, eleven states ban residents from having wine shipped to them from out-of-state wineries. And there are thirty-six states that still ban residents from having wine shipped to them by out-of-state retailers. Eeeks! And don’t even get me started on Canada.
The result is a confusing and frustrating system that really hurts the consumer. You may be able to order wines online to be shipped directly, but only if that state allows out-of-state shipping.
How will the rest of the world get to taste our unique American wines if we cannot even share them with one another? Fortunately, some concerned citizens have founded an organization to help. It is called the American Wine Consumer Coalition (AWCC), and they are dedicated to representing the interests of wine consumers in America. This newly formed group is ready to address legal access to wine via direct shipment, and I am thrilled. I hope that they can make some headway in changing our annoyingly archaic system and allow us to celebrate America by showing pride in every state’s accomplishments—and learning to better appreciate the wonderful wines we have here at home.
I am jumping on the bandwagon, and I hope you will join me. For an update on what the AWCC is doing, and information on becoming a member, please visit www.wineconsumers.org. On the Web site, you can click on any state to see just where you stand.
Alas, much work still needs to be done to break down state barriers with wine. But in the meantime, that should not deter you from being adventurous and searching out great local wines as you travel this summer. There are too many fabulous wines out there that need to be discovered.