The vineyard to Vacationland: Only fraction of U.S. wine allowed to ship to Maine homes

CBS 13 discovers of nearly 10,000 wineries in the United States, only about 5.5% have a license to ship wine directly to a consumer's home in Maine (WGME).

PORTLAND (WGME) – With nearly 10,000 wineries in the United States, CBS 13 finds only a fraction of those wines can ship directly to wine lovers in Maine.

“We have a favorite wine from a winery in California," said Teri Champagne. "I tried to order it a few years back and they wouldn't ship to Maine."

Champagne – yes, that is her real last name – and her husband Richard ran into the restrictions of Maine’s direct-to-consumer wine shipping laws.

Maine requires out-of-state wine makers to get a license to ship directly to homes in the state. The license fee is $200. Plus, a $100 application fee and a $50 yearly renewal.

Wineries are then required to track all shipments to the state, so the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations can collect taxes.

According to the state, 550 wine producers went through this process in 2017 and are able to ship direct to consumers in Maine.

“I think they're fairly liberal laws,” said Greg Mineo, Director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

Mineo says Maine’s wine shipping laws are similar to most of the country. 40 states, including Maine, require a license.

“I think the wine consumer in Maine is well served.”

CBS 13 asked Mineo why more wineries don’t go through the licensing process. He says it could be that they don’t want to make the effort or pay the fee.

Cellardoor Winery Owner Bettina Doulton – who does have a license to ship wine within the state – says many small wineries don’t have the manpower to keep up on each state’s wine shipping laws, and the paperwork that comes with it.

“You don’t want to mess with breaking your liquor laws,” Doulton said.

Doulton says Cellardoor Winery, which is based in Lincolnville with a tasting room at Thompson’s Point in Portland, produced between 10,000-12,000 cases of wine last year. Of that, she says they shipped 420 boxes of wine through orders made at the winery and tasting room, and 42 online orders.

“It’s absolutely tiny,” said Doulton. “That said, for people who want things shipped, it’s really important for them.”

Mineo says online wine orders are growing, but out-of-state online wine ships also face some hurdles shipping wine to Maine.

“You have to produce the wine that you intend to ship directly to a consumer,” Mineo said. “So typically, a wine club, if they're not producing a wine and usually they're not. they're not allowed to ship into Maine, direct to consumer.”

Mineo says he believes there are wineries breaking the rules, but that it’s hard to track, since delivery companies like FedEx and UPS are not required to report alcohol shipments to the state.

“We will stumble upon things. We will uncover, not unlike any other enforcement activity,” said Mineo. “We have to actually just find out about it through somebody who may actually turn somebody in. That happens from time to time.”

Mineo says one way to get wine from a producer that does not have a license to ship to Maine is to go to your favorite wine store and ask them if they can get a bottle for you. The retailer can then ask their distributor.

If you don’t want to do that extra work, Mineo says you can find 650 brands of wine licensed wine wholesalers distribute in Maine.

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