While the Autumn Leaves Change in Montana, So Do Their Wine Direct Shipping Regulations


Montana’s new direct shipping law goes into effect October 1 and will replace the current “Wine Connoisseur’s License” process with a “Direct Shipping Endorsement” permit system. Applications for authorization to ship directly to consumers in Montana are now available. Overall, the new law and licensing process are fairly simple; the Endorsement fee will cost $50 and the winery will also have to pay the applicable Foreign Winery registration fee, depending on how many cases the winery expects to send into Montana. Effective Tuesday, October 1, wineries must have the Endorsement in order to ship to consumers in Montana.

Wineries that have been direct shipping wine via the now-obsolete “Wine Connoisseurs License” process, or wineries that have been selling to Montana distributors, will likely already have a Foreign Winery License. Wineries already holding the Foreign Winery License may submit an application for the new Direct Shipping Endorsement with the Foreign Winery’s 2013-2014 license renewal application, or if wineries have already renewed their Foreign Winery License or are Domestic Winery licensees, the Endorsement Application may be filed separately. Wineries that are not already licensed as a Foreign Winery will need to apply for the Foreign Winery License and “Direct Shipment Endorsement” box on the Foreign Winery License Registration form.

What else needs to be done to become compliant and licensed? Many of the specifics of the law change are noted in our previous blog post and in Montana’s 2013 Legislative Wrap-up. Below are some items wineries will need to know during the process of becoming licensed.

1. Fulfillment, Carrier and Distributor Notifications

  • Direct Shippers must notify the Department of any fulfillment houses that will send shipments to Montana consumers on behalf of the licensed winery. Submit the name and the address of the fulfillment warehouse you will use with your Endorsement Application, or anytime you plan to begin using a fulfillment warehouse.
  • Direct Shipper applicants must send a written statement acknowledging that they will only contract with common carriers that agree to deliver table wine only to consumers who are at least 21 years of age.
  • Distributor agreements must be submitted along with the Foreign Winery Application. However, if the Foreign Winery applicant intends to ship only to onsumers in Montana, no distributors need to be noted in Section 6 of the application, and therefore no agreements need be included.

2. Label Registrations

  • Foreign Winery applicants may register their labels via the paper application and must include copies of the COLAs that they will ship into the state. Approval of these labels must be received before shipping them into the state.
  • Wineries already licensed as a Foreign Winery should register their products online through the Montana TaxPayer Access Point (TAP) system. Labels being sold both to wholesalers and to consumers in Montana only need to be registered once. There is no fee for registering labels.

The Wine Connoisseur’s License will remain effective until October 1 for any current connoisseur licensees who opted to renew their license for a shortened period of July 1 – September 30 of the 2013 year. After October 1, consumers in Montana purchasing wine will not need to obtain a connoisseur’s license, but will still need a connoisseur’s license to purchase beer if they wish to receive shipments from registered breweries, as beer was not included in the changes enacted by HB 402.

2 Comments

  1. The new law applies to “table wine” which is defined in the Montana regulations as “wine that contains not more than 16% alcohol by volume and includes cider”.

    Is there a process in place that allows for Montana consumers to receive wine containing ABV of 17% or higher (e.g. dessert wines)?

  2. As far as I understand, Montana considers anything above 16% alcohol to be liquor and must be sold in liquor stores.

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