Starting Oct. 1, Oklahoma wine enthusiasts can have wine shipped directly to their homes and offices by U.S. wineries licensed to ship. Previously, wine drinkers in Oklahoma were limited to purchasing only those wines carried by in-state wholesalers and retailers.
“Not unlike other states, the road to expanding consumer choice in Oklahoma was full of twists and turns, but in the end, succeeded for consumers,” says Free the Grapes, a national movement of consumers, wineries and retailers seeking to expand consumer choice in wine with legal, regulated direct shipments.
Because Oklahoma’s alcohol laws were embedded in the state’s constitution, a ballot measure was required to give the state legislature authority to make changes to those laws. For years, industry lobbyists at Wine Institute supported the idea of including winery direct shipping provisions in a ballot measure. In November 2016, voters approved State Question 792, which included a range of alcohol-related topics, including wine direct shipping.
But State Question 792, written to go into effect Oct. 1, still included provisions that would have prevented or at least unnecessarily restricted winery direct shipping, says Free the Grapes. For example, it would have required the consumer, in addition to the winery, to purchase a shipping permit—an approach proven unworkable in other states. It also necessitated additional legislation to allow common carriers to deliver shipments.
“In spring 2018, a common carrier bill survived a last-minute veto threat prompted by state wholesalers, which nearly derailed the entire effort,” the organization says.
Consumer supporters of Free the Grapes rallied to the cause of saving the important carrier bill, sending 550-plus letters to Governor Fallin within 24 hours. The Governor signed the bill, capping off years of lobbying by Wine Institute and consumer and media outreach by Free the Grapes.
“Since 1997, the number of legal states for winery-to-consumer shipment has grown from 17 to now 45, which represent 94 percent of the U.S. population. But retailers can ship interstate to only 14 states,” said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes. “So we have more work to do to help consumers expand their choice in wines.”