photo courtesy Vinley Market

The holidays are fast approaching and while some of us are on top of things, many of us (me included) have barely started getting gifts for our friends and family, and will probably be doing some serious last-minute shopping.

Luckily, for the wine lover on your list, there are a lot of fabulous options, with a wine subscription being a popular choice that will keep you on Santa’s “nice list” for years to come! Despite the ability for many people to have wine shipped directly to their doors, there are some regulatory hang-ups that can get in the way for many others.

US alcohol delivery laws

While it is illegal to ship wine through the United States Postal Service (USPS), thanks to an over 100-year old law, alcohol can be shipped through FedEx and UPS, however, where they can ship is dependent upon each state’s own laws. Alcohol shipping laws are complicated to say the least. In fact, according to alcohol beverage attorney John Hinman in a recent article on wine-searcher.com, “The laws are very complicated and vary significantly from state to state and alcohol product to alcohol product. Many of the laws and restrictions make little business sense and are enforced only when someone complains.”

Just recently, UPS and FedEx have both started to crack down on who they ship alcohol to – this is a result of individual states increasing enforcement of their own alcohol shipping laws.

Not every subscription service ships to the same states

While there are some states that don’t have strict laws for shipping alcohol, there are many other states that, are a bit more complicated and require some interesting workarounds to get wine to your door.

For example, according to the wine subscription service Vinley Market, “Many states have laws prohibiting or severely restricting inbound shipments of wine from our vendors. Therefore, unfortunately our vendors are not able to ship wine or other alcoholic beverages, and our site will not accept orders with shipping addresses to Illinois or Utah.

Due to state regulatory landscapes, shipments from Vinley Market to the following states will take 2-3 weeks to arrive: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.”

Here is another example from the wine subscription service Winc:

“We are only able to ship to states which have laws that permit shipment of wine directly to consumers. Currently we are unable to accept orders that are delivered to addresses in AK, AL, AR, DE, HI, KY, HI, MS, OK, RI, SD, and UT”. Even if you live in a state that’s not on that list, there is a huge list of “dry zip codes” within “legal” states where you can’t ship to, based on local-level legislation.

And here is the list from the wine subscription service, Vinebox:

“Wine shipping laws vary state by state. Due to these laws, we are unable to ship to the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.”

So we have here three wine subscription services, three different lists of where they can ship wines.

TCM Wine Club

How subscription services work with/around interstate shipping laws

As mentioned previously, each state has its own laws regarding direct shipping of wine to individuals. Some states flat out don’t allow it, while others require specific rules be met, with shippers often requiring a special permit to ship wines in each state. Since it’s usually not just a simple application with a blind stamp of approval, each shipper must determine if approval in each state is worth the regulatory and financial red tape that accompanies said application.

One way wine subscription services can ship wine directly to you in your state is to partner with local retailers that have a license to be able to ship alcohol to your doorstep. Take the NPR Wine Club, for example. When selecting “Colorado”, the state in which I live, from the NPR Wine Club website, I was told I was being redirected to a specific retailer in Colorado who is licensed to sell/ship within that state. According to the NPR Wine Club website, “in accordance with state laws, all orders are placed with and shipped by licensed retailers in the industry”.

While this approach may be a tedious task on the part of the wine subscription service to set up all those relationships, in the long run it benefits you the consumer in that you are able to get the wines shipped directly to you even if you live in a state with difficult interstate shipping laws.

Examples of wine subscription services

While getting wine shipped to your door might be regulatory headache, thankfully it falls to the shipper to comply with all the laws, and all you must do is sign for your wine once it finally reaches your door.

With all that said, what are some of your options for wine subscriptions services? There are a ton out there, but here is a small selection to get you started:

  • Vinley Market: A monthly subscription service, Vinley Market offers two choices: the “Bubbles & Rosé Box” and the “Adventurer’s Box”. The “Bubbles & Rose Box” offers a selection of two bottles of – you guessed it – sparkling wine and rosé for $59/month. The “Adventurer’s Box”, on the other hand, offers a selection of three bottles of wine from all over the globe for $79/month. Also included in the shipments is information on the wine, winery, and winemakers.

Vinley Market prides itself on its sommeliers choosing wines from all over the globe that can’t be found in the grocery stores but won’t “break the bank”.

See where Vinley Market ships here.

  • Turner Classic Movies Wine Club: A unique twist on the traditional wine club, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Wine Club caters to the wine lover and film lover alike. If you’re a TCM viewer, you might have watched one of the promos featuring brother and sister wine aficionados Andre and Tenaya Darlington tasting some of the wines and offering pairing suggestions. This wine club pairs wine with movies, through collectible movie-themed bottles to limited-production special selections from all over the globe. With the TCM Wine Club, you get a case of wine every quarter, with information on the wines themselves and suggested movie pairing specific to each wine. You can choose to have only red wines, white wines, or a mix of both, and can cancel your membership at any time.

The TCM Wine Club currently has an introductory special going where for the first shipment, you get your case of wine plus three free movie-themed red wines, including a new release from Francis Ford Coppola all for $79.99 (plus shipping). Subsequent quarterly case shipments are $149.99 (plus shipping). You can also tell the TCM Wine Club whether or not you liked a particular wine in your case, so that they may better tailor your next case to your own personal style preferences.

See where the TCM Wine Club ships here.

  • selections from NPR Wine Club

    NPR Wine Club: One of the newest wine clubs on the block, the NPR Wine Club offers you the opportunity to try a large variety of wines while at the same time supporting National Public Radio and its many programs. Like the TCM Wine Club, the NPR Wine Club sends you a case of wine once per quarter, with a variety of carefully-selected wines as well as custom public radio-themed bottles (a glass of All Grapes Considered, anyone?). Additionally, you will receive information on the stories behind each wine, as well as wine and food pairing suggestions. As with the TCM Wine Club, you can tell them your preferences so that they may better craft your quarterly shipment to suit your own tastes.

The NPR Wine Club currently has a special introductory offer where you get a case of wines (either red, white, or mixed) plus three free NPR-inspired bottles all for $79.99 (plus shipping). Subsequent quarterly case shipments are $149.99 (plus shipping).

See where the NPR Wine Club ships here.

Now that you know how to navigate the subscription services, hopefully you find one that suits your tastes and delivers!