Say No to Wine Monopolies – Say No to the Cork Tax

As I get my bag ready for another day on the road in snowy New Jersey, I had to take a few minutes to ask for your help in fighting off a dire threat to not only David Bowler Wine, but other like-minded importers and distributors in the New York Metropolitan area.  The threat is the Cork Tax that is currently working its way through the New York State Legislature*.  If this bill passes, wholesalers who distribute their wines in New York will be required to store those wines in a New York warehouse.  Known as an “at-rest” law, this proposed legislation can have a dramatic effect on the New York wine market.  How so?

Prices for wines distributed by those who warehouse in New Jersey will go up in order for distributors to recoup the costs associated with real estate, rent, and taxes.  And we are not talking about a few cents a bottle here – in the end, the consumer will be paying dollars more per bottle. In a wine market with the diversity that New York provides, prices for wines of all qualities and styles are competitive with any other market in the United States.

And as for the diversity of products, there is a very good chance that if the Cork Tax is passed, the diversity in wine that makes New York the best wine hub in the world will be compromised and fewer selections will be available.  Why?  Because many of the importers that bring you your favorite wines from Jasnieres, the Mosel, Coonawarra or Mendoza are brick and mortar operations that are barely scraping by as it is in as they build their companies from the ground up one producer at a time.  Any additional costs that these companies have to incur increased the likelihood that these wines will disappear entirely from the New York market.

And that brings me to my last point.  The Cork Tax is essentially being sponsored by only a couple of wine and liquor distributing behemoths**.  These billion dollar operations are simply chasing the bottom line and this political grandstanding is nothing more than a money and power grab, an attempt to gain back market share they are slowly losing as smaller, more determined and specialized importers and distributors continue to provide a level of wine quality and service that the billion dollar distributors cannot provide without political favor and unfair tactics. 

These two mega-distributors don’t care about the farmer from the Loire Valley who produces only a few thousand cases each year and lost his entire crop in a hail storm last summer.  They don’t care about the winemaker who is dry-farming during one of the most biblical droughts in the history of California and needs personable, knowledgeable and impassioned sales people on the street selling his wine so he can afford to keep his family on the farm and in business.  They don’t care about how many new jobs their proposal absurdly claims will bring into the New York labor force – what about those lost when we go out of business?  They don’t care that your shop or restaurant is predicated on the idea that you only want to sell wines that bring with them a story, a tradition and a sense of place.  They don’t care that there are an array of amazing small-batch distributors in the New York market with sales teams comprised of some of the smartest, most focused and driven individuals that any business should proud to call their own. And they sure as hell don’t care how hard any of us have worked to build our businesses without needing an ounce of help from them.

All they care about is doing everything in their ability to monopolize the New York wine market and reach their greedy hands into more pocketbooks.  All they care about is making sure that you get as many boxes shipped to you each month in order to hit their numbers.  All they care about is that you situate their products conveniently on your by the glass list or in a neat little stack at the entrance of your store so every guest and customer that walks into your establishment is reminded how important it is that they buy these multinational brands in quantities.

I don’t work in New York, I sell wine in New Jersey.  However, if the Cork Tax is passed, my company will have some very serious and unnecessary choices to make.  And everything that we have worked for as a little-o organic company will be threatened.   As wine professionals and consumers in the New York Market, we cannot let that happen to my company, other like-minded distributors, your store or restaurant.

This is New York. This is the wine capital of the world. Stop the Cork Tax.

How can you help? If you live in New York, click on the link below and follow the instructions. If you do not live in New York, share and spread the word to everyone you know who loves wine. With enough support and activism, we can defeat the proposed Cork Tax and go about what we enjoy doing most – sharing and drinking good wine.




*The measure, sponsored by New York state Sen. Jeffrey Klein – D-Bronx, would require wholesalers to warehouse wines and spirits in New York state for an “at-rest” period of at least 24 hours if they want to sell them in retail outlets in that state.

**…the measure would mainly benefit two big wholesalers – Empire Merchants of Brooklyn and Long Island-based Southern Wine and Spirits of New York.

Both citations from: