Wine lovers in South Carolina will soon be able to order from their favorite out-of-state producers and have the wines shipped right to their homes. Today, South Carolina became the second state this year, following Virginia, to allow interstate direct-to-consumer shipments of wine.
Shortly before South Carolina's legislative session ended for the year, Sen. James Ritchie (R-Spartanburg) got a direct-shipping provision amended onto Senate Bill 228. That measure, which received final approval from both houses last week, revises the state's liquor laws by creating a special license for manufacturers of food items containing alcohol. Gov. Mark Sanford signed the bill today.
"I thought South Carolina needed to go forward to help our consumers," explained Ritchie, who said that he had been following the direct-shipping court cases in the nearby states of Virginia and North Carolina. "In this market, we have a limited number of outlets and distributors, and I wanted to make sure the smaller growers had the opportunity to have their wines purchased in South Carolina."
Under the new law, South Carolina residents of legal drinking age may have out-of-state wineries ship them 24 bottles of wine each month for their personal use. The wineries must first obtain an out-of-state shipper's license and pay a fee of $400 every two years. The shippers must mark the packages "Contains Alcohol; Signature of Person Age 21 or Older Required for Delivery," file reports with the state and pay taxes annually on all shipments into South Carolina.
"I look forward to having more opportunities to buy more good wines in South Carolina," said Ritchie, an attorney and self-professed "big fan of wine" who himself plans to take advantage of the new law. He said his interest in the issue arose after a recent visit to Italy and some of its wineries.
However, South Carolina enophiles can't exercise their newfound purchasing freedom just yet. Wineries must wait until the South Carolina Department of Revenue develops the necessary application and reporting forms before they can start shipping there.
"We're delighted with [the law]," said Steve Gross, state relations manager for the Wine Institute, a winery trade group that lobbies on state and federal levels to open up new markets to direct shipping. He explained that the law is nearly identical to the winery industry's "model" shipping legislation, except that it calls for a two-year fee instead of an annual fee. He noted that the measure was "a last-minute deal," which helped minimize the amount of opposition it faced from local distributors and retailers who might fear that direct-shipments will take business away from them.
South Carolina has a few small wineries, and Ritchie hopes the new law will benefit them as well by allowing them to ship to new out-of-state markets. "We are hopeful this will engender reciprocity with other states," he said. "We are looking for ways to expand the South Carolina wine industry. I believe it has value to the economy and helps support tourism."
South Carolina is now the 24th state to allow direct shipments either through a permit system or a reciprocal shipping law, in which consumers can receive wine only from producers in other states that also allow direct shipments.
For a complete overview and past news on the issue of wine shipments, check out our package on The Direct Shipping Battle.
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