Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, January 16, 2006

WAFTA

The rulings in the recent Costco suit, bring me to a favorite rant of mine. We have NAFTA and CAFTA. Now we need WAFTA. What is WAFTA? Wines of America Free Trade Agreement! Why do we need a free trade agreement inside the U.S.? That's a new one. Supposedly, it has to do with states rights and prohibition, the Sherman anti-trust act and interstate commerce.. But, proving, once again, that nothing is what it appears to be, I think it's really about an entrenched bureaucracy, and as State Senator Margarita Prentice said the lack of public outcry has made her "resist making big changes, because the only ones interested in it are the ones who were going to make a profit." Of course, it's not entirely clear whether she was referring to Costco or the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, but it is clear that there needs to be a public outcry.

As usual, it's the little guys, the small wineries and consumers, who will suffer. If the legislature, or the court, decides against all direct selling by wineries, it will be a major loss for artisanal winemaking and for all of us who love wine. If they decide to just jigger the current three tier system with its anti-competitive bias, it will be a loss for American free enterprise. Which is the American way, anyway, competition or monopoly?

Which bring me back to WAFTA. We are fortunate to have a reciprocal trade agreement with California, but what if you want to buy wine from number three producer, New York. I know, you are not that likely to order a case from a New York winery, but shouldn't you have the right to do so? And what if you couldn't buy wine direct from Beresan, Betz or Basel Cellars. In the era of the internet and globalization, should we allow ourselves to be hamstrung by arcane and archaic laws and regulations that are based on ideas that are more than seventy years old. If telecommunications hadn't been deregulated , you might not be able to use your cell phone and you might still be expected to pay ATT as the only provider of long distance service. In this new era we need free trade in the wine world, as well. Wine distributors serve an important function, but they do not ahve to control every last drop of wine. Tom Wark, at his "Fermentation" blog suggested that distributors be required to buy every bottle of wine produced if they want a monopoly. Write or call you Washington state legislators and tell your friends to do the same. And join Free the Grapes at freethegrapes.org

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