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Ship, Ship Hooray

Friday - 8/5/2011, 12:08pm  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

Washington, D.C. has allowed residents to receive wine shipments for quite some time and Virginia opened their boarders shortly before the high court’s ruling. Until recently, Maryland was the lone holdout in the area.

Starting July 1, Maryland joined its neighbors, allowing wineries located outside of the state to ship up to 18 cases of wine per year to Maryland residents who are of legal drinking age. The Maryland bill excludes shipments from out of state retailers.

Virginia allows up to two cases of wine or two cases of beer per month for your personal consumption and not for resale.

But just because consumers can get wines shipped to their doorstep, doesn’t necessarily mean they should.

Pros

  • Access to highly allocated and “cult” status wines.
  • It comes to you!

Cons

  • Taxes are still collected by the winery, so no cost savings
  • Shipping adds an additional expense of three – five dollars per bottle
  • Wine is subject to bottle shock or worse, adverse exposure to extreme temperatures during summer and winter months
  • Carbon footprint: Some shippers contain Styrofoam and shipping just one case at a time is very inefficient

Unless the wine is impossible to find, I am in favor of developing a relationship with a local wine shop, which can have many ancillary benefits.

As your merchant gets to know you and your palate, he or she can offer suggestions that can broaden both your knowledge and your appreciation for different styles of wines.

Next, many wine shops will actually let you try a wine before you buy it. Or, at the very least, will include you on an email list that will alert you to in-store wine tastings, many featuring winemakers or producers.

I also like the fact that I can buy a couple of bottles to take home and enjoy them in a more neutral environment. That way, if I like the wine, I can always call the wine shop and ask them to put a few more bottles aside for me. A few too many times I have had my “wine goggles” on while visiting a winery or wine shop and end up ordering a case (or two) of a particular wine only to discover that once I get it home, I am not as in love with it as I thought I was.

Lastly, many wine shops offer discounts to regular customers, especially if they are recommending a particular wine. By the way, it is always prudent to ask for a “case discount” (usually ten percent or more) when you are buying twelve or more bottles of wine from any merchant.

The bottom line is that shipping laws now provide more options to consumers to purchase hard to find or “cult” status wines that local wine shops may not have access to, and that’s a good thing. But I would recommend that consumers first ask their local wine merchants to find and acquire a particular wine on their behalf. If you do order wine online, make sure that the juice is worth the proverbial squeeze. Shipping charges and exposure to extreme temperatures in transit can turn your prized wine into sour grapes.

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