Wineries uncork grocery debate
New York is one of 15 states that limits wine sales to liquor and wine stores. (Photo by Getty)
A proposal to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores has pitted New Yorks wineries against one another, as they argue about whether the change would be good for business.
Gov. David Paterson sees the plan as a way to generate more than $100 million during the next two years, through new licensing fees, to help fill the states $16 billion budget gap.
While liquor store owners, fearing theyll be driven out of business by new competition, have railed against the proposal, wineries from the Hamptons to the Finger Lakes are split.
Proponents argue that selling wine in grocery stores, which is done in 35 other states, would allow state wineries to increase their sales.
Its Business 101, said Scott Osborn, owner of Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region. The more outlets you have, the more opportunities you have to expand.Osborn points to the fact that the number of liquor stores statewide has fallen from about 5,000 in 1993 to 2,700 today. Patersons proposal would put wine in about 19,000 new stores.
Some wine producers, however, said they believe supermarket chains would largely opt for cheaper, out-of-state brands that offer greater profits. They also worry that if some liquor stores go out of business, they would have fewer places to sell their products.
With the supermarkets, quite truthfully, I probably wouldnt even get my foot in the door to talk to them, said Mike Migliore, owner of Whitecliff Vineyard, in the Hudson Valley.
Last Store on Main Street, a coalition of wine stores and wineries fighting the legislation, estimates that 1,000 liquor stores would close and at least 4,500 jobs would be lost if the measure passes.
As for supermarkets catering to brands such as Gallo Family and Yellow Tail: Thats already happening in liquor stores, Osborn said.
Theres little explanation for the differing views among wineries. Marco Borghese of Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery on Long Island theorized that upstate wineries favor the plan because liquor stores are more spread out there, but dozens of wineries near the Finger Lakes alone have denounced it. Many smaller operations, meanwhile, say that larger producers will have an easier time gaining access to supermarket shelves, but some smaller wineries, too, support the proposal.
The measure is embedded in Patersons proposal for the fiscal year 2010 budget, which lawmakers have until Wednesday to pass. The current law limiting wine sales to liquor stores has stood for 75 years.
New Yorkers largely agreed that they want easier access to wine.
Its just more convenient for customers, and its good for the city, said Min Kang, 26, of Williamsburg.
In terms of wine shops going out of business, thats capitalism, said Patrick Courtney, 26, of SoHo. If theyre in the right neighborhood, theyll survive.
Melinda Hsia contributed to this report.