April 11th, 2008
In October of last year, wineries began shipping directly to Ohio residents under a new direct shipping permit law. When the provisions of the law in Ohio were first announced, one of the major subjects of controversy was the capacity cap, which only allows wineries that produce less than 150,000 gallons annually to obtain a permit. Capacity caps continue to be a subject of controversy in all the states that use them (currently Arizona, Massachusetts,
Indiana Kentucky and Ohio; Florida could adopt a 250,000 gallon cap if SB1096 or HB1293 is passed).
Continuing the controversy, Ohio Representative Matthew J. Dolan is looking to increase the capacity cap for wineries from 150,000 to 250,000. Though the increase in production volume may be a “little step” in the right direction, it certainly seems like a very little step, allowing only 17 more California wine labels to be shipped to Ohio residents. According to The Plain Dealer, Dolan originally vowed to eliminate the cap altogether, but got a lot of pushback from the Ohio Department of Commerce and from Ohio Distributors (as Uncorked points out, “no surprise”).
Just next door, Indiana also prevents wineries producing over a certain amount of wine per year from shipping directly to its residents. Indiana’s original capacity cap was 500,000, but will increase on July 1, 2008 to 1,000,000 gallons since SB0107 was signed on March 13th by governor Daniels. Though this is the highest volume cap of the four states that have said restrictions,
Many will agree that any permit system that discriminates against a winery for the amount of wine produced is not an ideal permit system. Furthermore, the constitutionality of these caps is being challenged through litigation (see Family Winemakers of California vs. Jenkins). State legislators may adopt a capacity cap restriction for any number of reasons, but none of them seem very fair. The state may claim that it is trying to protect its own wineries by establishing the volume cap just above that of the highest producing in-state winery, but who else is being protected while the consumer’s interests fall by the wayside?
Update: In our original post, we mistakenly stated that that Indiana has a capacity cap that is similar to OH, KY, MA, and AZ. The 500,000 gallon “cap” in Indiana that will increase to 1,000,000 gallons on July 1st, 2008 only applies to wineries in that the applicant must not sell more than this amount of wine per year IN Indiana, excluding wine shipped to an out-of-state address.