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Cheers to the American Wine Consumer Coaltion

August 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Wine


It may be somewhat brash for Tom Wark to call his new group the American Wine Consumer Coalition (AWCC) and make the claim that it “is the only national advocacy group that works to advance the interests of America’s wine consumers.”

I doubt that masses of consumers voluntarily gathered into a coalition and then asked Tom to run it. But you know what, folks? That’s how you get things done these days. You don’t wait for the public to organize themselves. Instead, you create a group that purports to represent the public, and then wait for them to join up.

There’s a big difference, though, between an Astroturf group and one with a valid claim to legitimacy, such as AWCC has. An Astroturf group is phony, like the ones funded by the Koch brothers that sound legitimate but are just false fronts designed to promote the [hidden] interests of [unidentified] sponsors. That’s bad (except that, in this post-Citizens United era, our SCOTUS has made it inevitable).

On the other hand, AWCC really does represent the interests of American consumers, even if it’s presently leading a parade with a very small following. I hope that changes.

Why do I say AWCC represents the interests of American consumers? It’s obvious: with all the stupid laws against direct shipping, particularly on the state level, consumers are ill-served by the present system, which is an anachronistic vestige of Prohibition and the Repeal laws that dissembled it, yet still left in place a very difficult situation for wineries to negotiate. It’s clear that behind the barriers to direct shipping lie two formidable forces: (1) an inherent anti-alcohol bias, and (2) the tremendous clout of Big Alcohol, especially Big Beer and Big Liquor, who really do not desire a truly free distribution system.

It’s fine for Big Alcohol to fight free and fair trade: they have their rights. The problem is that consumers, who should also have rights, have nobody to argue for them. In State capitals and in the nation’s capital, no paid lobbyists exist to argue for the rights of ordinary adult Americans to buy wine from anywhere they choose, and have it sent to them in the mail. That this is anti-consumer is clear, and it flies patently in the face of arguments, by Republicans and Democrats alike, who claim they’re in favor of the free market, competitive capitalism America loves to trumpet. I don’t see how any politician can claim to be in favor of free market capitalism and then say to little family wineries, in effect, “You’re free to market and sell your wine if you want to. But, oh, by the way, we’ll design the system in such a way as to make it impossible.”

I love that Tom writes, in the mission statement, his aim to “Gather under the AWCC roof a supportive and educated community of wine lovers who are willing to help advance a pro-consumer agenda where alcohol laws and regulations are concerned.” It will not be easy. One can look to past successful efforts to rally millions of Americans–the Civil Rights struggle was one, and so (regrettably) has been the advent of the Tea Party. Choice in purchasing alcohol, however, doesn’t rise to the level of such dramatic political upheavals; I doubt we’re going to see a mass movement of consumers to gather under AWCC’s roof, at least in numbers significant enough to make an impact on the addled attention of elected politicians. But I wonder why the libertarian wing of the Republican Party doesn’t support expanding these freedoms to Americans.

Still, I wish Tom and AWCC every good wish, and will do what I can to help. I hope Tom will reach out to those of us in the media and help us help him. This is potentially an important development, an opportunity for America to truly practice what it preaches when it comes to the freedom of choice in the marketplace. I think America is ready for it, and I congratulate Tom for spearheading the effort.

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