If you are licensed to ship wine into the Commonwealth of Virginia, you likely received the following letter last week from the Virginia ABC.
TO: All Virginia Licensed Shippers
FROM: Francis J. Monahan, Director, Bureau of Law Enforcement
SUBJECT: UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICES
DATE: July 22nd, 2009
In state and out of state Virginia shipper licensees may only sell and ship authorized alcoholic beverages from their licensed address through approved common carriers. Licensees may not contract with third parties such as fulfillment warehouses, marketing companies, or other businesses to receive or ship orders for them.
All orders must be received directly by the licensed shipper, at their licensed location, by their employees. Orders must be shipped through approved common carriers from their licensed location, by their employees.
Any licensee in violation is subject to being fined and/or having their license suspended or revoked.
If you have any questions you may direct them to: Enforcement@abc.virginia.gov.
Common practice for wineries in many states is to contract with third party shippers that are also known as "fulfillment houses" and "third party logistics" (3PL) providers. This memo has caused a minor panic in the industry because many wineries, especially in California, use fulfillment houses to pack and ship wine based on orders that winery employees receive. The circular would suggest that such practice is in violation of Virginia law even if orders are taken legitimately by employees of licensees, at their licensed location, and shipped through approved common carriers.
The circular also recommends that licensees not contract with “marketing companies, or other businesses to receive or ship orders for them”. According to the memo, “all orders must be received directly by the licensed shipper, at their licensed location”.
Wine industry representatives are working with the Virginia ABC to get further clarification on the recent circular. Please stay tuned, and we will update you as we learn more.