State Politics

Want wine delivered to your door? It could happen if Coast lawmakers get their way

Bills in the Mississippi House would make it easier to buy wine, and possibly would give drinkers a wider variety as well.
Bills in the Mississippi House would make it easier to buy wine, and possibly would give drinkers a wider variety as well. File

If Coast lawmakers get their way, wine could be coming to a doorstep near you. And the selection of wine would be wider.

Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, introduced a bill that would allow direct shipment of wine to Mississippi homes. It is similar to the bills he introduced the last two years when neither got out of committee. In 2015, Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, introduced a broader bill that would have allowed direct shipment of wines that also would have allowed wine-only package stores and wine tastings. It met a fate similar to Busby’s bills.

Busby’s bill has several safeguards to try to prevent underage people from getting their hands on the alcohol, which has been a concern of opponents. It would require the boxes the wine to be “conspicuously labeled with the words ‘Contains alcohol: Signature of person age 21 years or older required for delivery.”

Fourteen states, including neighboring Louisiana, and the District of Columbia allow direct shipments of wine from retailers. Forty-five states allow direct shipments from wineries. Busby’s bill would allow shipments from both provided the shipper obtained a permit from the Department of Revenue.

Sovos, which helps companies comply with tax and shipping laws, said more than $2 billion worth of wine was shipped direct to consumers in 2016. Other states have tapped into that revenue stream by charging for permits and collecting taxes.

Rep. Scott DeLano once again is trying to get the Legislature to look at the entire Alcohol Beverage Control system of distributing beer, wine and liquor.

He filed a bill that would allow the Department of Finance and Administration to spend up to $75,000 studying the ABC. DFA would contract with a third party that would make recommendations for the 2019 legislative session. It would report on the effect that allowing retail food stores would have on the ABC because of increased demand for and the availability of wine. It would also recommend modifications to the ABC to “improve capacity and supply for permit holders, improve the process for issuing permits, placing orders, and making reports to ABC, and increase the points of shipments for orders.”

Wine lovers have complained that Mississippi has a very limited selection of wine.

“In other markets, large retailers like Costco, for example, have great wine selections, which is an important part of their business. Mississippi’s restrictive wine laws certainly don’t help us attract those type of retailers,” Gulf Coast Business Council President Ashley Edwards, a level 1 sommelier, told the Sun Herald in October.