New Jersey is a beautiful place to live but it’s not without its quirks. It seems like there’s a diner on almost every corner. We’re one of only two states where it’s against the law to pump your own gas (thank goodness). You have to exit to the right to make a left turn,
Well, add this to the list: Unlike most other states, New Jersey severely restricts consumers’ ability to have wine shipped direct from wineries to their home.
Yes! Crazy enough, New Jersey is one of only two states – Ohio is the other – that limit consumer choice based solely on the size of a winery. Wineries that make under 250 gallons a year can direct-ship if they buy a license and agree to remit sales and excise taxes to the state. Those making over that amount can’t.
So it’s no surprise that while direct-to-consumer shipping from wineries across the US rose by a record 27% in pandemic-ravaged 2020, New Jersey; growth was only 3.5%.
However, New Jerseyans fight for what they believe in, and since last August NJ consumers sent more than 1,500 letters of support through Freethegrapes.org to their state legislators for measures introduced (A1943, S2683) with bipartisan support to remove this “capacity cap.” (Free the Grapes is a national grassroots coalition of wine lovers and wineries which seeks to remove bans and streamline restrictions in states that prevent consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers.)
Often, New Jersey residents resort to border-hopping — having wineries ship their products to friends or relatives in New York, then going over to pick them up, which deprives New Jersey of the tax revenue (and actually is against the law). NJ is losing at least $4 million in taxes and fees per year that would have come in if NJ consumers could order the wines of their choice shipped to their door. In 2017 the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers found that revenue from fees, sales and excise taxes would have increased 123% from 2016 to 2017 – and New Jersey continues to forfeit those increases at a time when state revenue is needed the most.
And think about all the loss during COVID-19. Wine drinking increased and consumers weren’t going to retail stories if they didn’t have to. Across the country, shipments from wineries direct to consumers (DTC) skyrocketed – up 2x to 4x versus pre-COVID levels. But NJ wine lovers had to miss out on most of that, because of this law.