Wine Time

How to Ship Wine Legally to Texas

In the wake of my post Wednesday, "Texas Wine Shipping Prohibition Is Morally Indefensible (and Bad for Business)," I wanted to follow up with some tips on how to ship wine legally to Texas.

Although it hasn't been updated for more than two years, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission does have an informative page on wine shipping within and from outside our state.

Shipping from an out-of-state retailer is prohibited in Texas, but individuals may ship wine to Texas as long as the shipments are "non-commercial transactions."

According to the TABC site, "If you are an individual interested in shipping wine to a friend or family member in Texas as a gift, you may do so, as long as you use a TABC-licensed common carrier."

This means that as long as you use a licensed carrier like FedEx or UPS, you can ship to Texas.

Here's the hitch: FedEx and UPS won't allow you to ship wine unless you are a licensed shipper in the state of origin.

In other words, you can go to wine shop in Los Angeles and purchase wine and a wine Styrofoam wine shipper. But FedEx or UPS won't accept the wine from you.

I am aware of individuals who drop wine shipments off at courier retail locations without labeling the packaging as a wine shipment. In many cases, the courier will accept the package. But in recent years, as the issue has become more and more contentious and as states (like ours) have begun to send out cease and desist letters to couriers, employees at the courier retailer locations have been trained to identity illegal wine shipments and instructed not to receive them.

So how is it possible to ship wine that you've purchased from an out-of-state retailer? The answer: You need to use a third-party licensed wine shipper.

In California, there are a number of them, mostly located in Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Napa counties. They generally service wineries: Because it can be prohibitively costly for small wineries to pay the annual licensing fees required by law to ship to states like Texas, they turn to third party shippers who don't sell the wine to the end consumer; they merely provide shipping services. (And remember, the 2005 Granholm decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld U.S. wineries' constitutional right to engage in interstate commerce and to ship wine to any state in the union.)

Here's how it works. You visit or call a winery and buy wine. You then deliver the wine to a third-party shipper or you ask the winery to deliver it to a third-party shipper. The third-party shipper (who is not the producer or a retailer of wine) then ships it to you. I've spoken with a TABC representative who confirmed that the state of Texas considers this a perfectly legal way to ship wine here.

It's not cheap, but it's legal. Is it worth it? If you love wine and its mosaic of diversity as much as I do, it sure is...

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen