For her last birthday, my wife got a gift she couldn’t use. Literally. A thoughtful family member had given her a gift card for an online wine retailer. But when she went to redeem the card, she found she was barred from using it because of a Texas law restricting interstate wine sales.

She was, of course, pretty upset by the injustice of all this, as was I. Sadly, it’s just one of many examples of Texas alcohol regulation being used for an anti-competitive purpose.

I hope she hasn’t thrown away the card, though, as things may be about to change:

Last week, in a move that took wine industry observers by surprise, Texas state lawmaker Matt Rinaldi, a Republican from Dallas County, filed a bill that would lift a long-standing ban prohibiting out-of-state retailers from shipping wines to consumers here.

Currently, it is illegal for an out-of-state wine shop to sell and ship wines to Texans. In other words, if you live in Texas, you cannot call or email a wine shop in New York or San Francisco and ask the merchant to sell and ship you its products. If Rinaldi’s bill were to be approved by the Texas Legislature, it would mark a historic break from a restrictive policy that regulates how Texans buy their wines.

The bill is expected to face stiff opposition by the Texas beer, wine and spirits wholesaler and retailer lobbies. As wine industry blogger and wine trade veteran Tom Wark wrote on his site last week, it is ‘the kind of legislation that Texas wholesalers and most Texas alcohol beverage retailers will oppose with their last dying breath.’

The current law is protectionism at its worst. I can only wish Rep. Rinaldi and the Texas Legislature Godspeed in passing this legislation.

Image by Africa Studio

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