Most people know that as of July 1, 2009 it finally became legal to ship wine into the state of Tennessee. Most folks don't understand the limitations of the regulations though. While imports have become legal, it's not exactly like the floodgates have been thrown open and the creek beds are running red with California Cabernet.
Legally, in order to qualify to ship wine into or out of Tennessee, wineries must jump through a few hoops. In order to be approved, wineries must pay an application fee and a renewable license, agree to charge and collect applicable taxes and commit to shipping via common carriers that require a delivery signature from an individual over the age of twenty-one.
Additionally, a direct shipper may not ship more than a total of nine liters of wine to any individual during any calendar month nor shall such shipper ship more than twenty-seven liters of wine to any individual in any calendar year. But keep in mind that as a consumer, you can purchase from as many licensed importers as you want, so at nine liters apece this reg should hardly cramp your chance to get your drank on.
Not all Tennesseans are eligible for direct shipment though. Wineries may only ship wine to an address that is located in a jurisdiction that has authorized the sale of alcoholic beverages by local option referendum. Basically, if liquor stores are legal in your community, then your address is shippable. In case you're not sure whether your town is wet or dry, a comprehensive list is located here.
Three months after the passage of the legislation, acceptance is expanding fairly rapidly. I spoke to Danielle Elks, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. She said that since the laws were changed over 175 applications have been submitted for direct shipment licenses. Only thirty-five wineries had completed the process by the end of last month, but Elks said she has given final approval to fifteen more just this week. A complete list of approved importers and exporters is available at the Tennessee ABC website, and they are doing a good job of keeping it up-to-date so you can keep checking back for your future purchasing options.
The river flows both directions, by the way. Arrington, Del Monaco and Stonehaus are Tennessee wineries that are now approved to export their product. The majority of approved importers are from California with a smattering from Oregon and Washington. Some notable names include The Hess Collection, Merryvale, Rubicon, Molly Dooker and Larkmeade.
Please keep in mind that this legislation is not intended to replace your local wine shop. Consider it a way to acquire wines that are not represented by Tennessee distributors or are not stocked by local merchants.
This is a step in the right direction. Throw open those borders, Tennessee! Access to more good wines only increases the appetite of informed consumers. Cheers.