Our Mission: To Ensure Consumer Choice in Fine Wine
Free the Grapes! is a national grassroots coalition of wine lovers and wineries who seek to remove bans and streamline restrictions in states that prevent consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers.
Our goal is to ensure consumer choice in wine. We advocate augmenting, not replacing, the three-tier system with limited, regulated direct-to-consumer shipments. Direct shipping is defined as wines shipped directly from a winery license holder or a retail license holder to a consumer using a common carrier like FedEx or UPS. The so-called three-tier system, alternatively, is a sales channel in which wines are sold by wineries to wholesalers, then from wholesalers to retailers, and finally from retailers to consumers.
Consumers are driving changes in how products are bought and sold; they want and expect to be able to purchase wines they want in the manner of their choosing: online, by telephone, through periodic wine club shipments, etc. The U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Trade Commission have supported the reasonable expansion of winery direct shipping and the majority of U.S. states enable winery-to-consumer consumer choice in wine. Unfortunately, most states do not allow retailer-to-consumer direct shipping.
Rather than complementing a dynamic marketplace, some wholesaler middlemen are aggressively supporting state-sanctioned monopolies in wine distribution. Well-funded lobbying seeks to further restrict consumer choice by overturning proven direct shipping legislation, by requiring face-to-face transactions, by banning shipments based on a winery’s size, and other obstructions to free and fair trade.
We believe that wholesaler middlemen can and should compete based on delivering service and value, not by creating felony laws and onerous restrictions that reduce consumer choice.
Free the Grapes! was established in June 1998 by five wine industry associations which together represent thousands of U.S wineries. A 501c(6) non-profit California trade association, Free the Grapes’ operations are funded exclusively by contributions from wineries and net income from the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium, an annual conference.
The following organizations founded Free the Grapes!
Coalition for Free Trade
Founded in 1997, the Coalition for Free Trade was a 501(c)3 non-profit legal foundation whose goal was to legalize direct-to-consumer shipments of wine from out-of-state wineries and retailers in those states where it was prohibited. The Coalition for Free Trade’s legal team was instrumental in bringing the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. But the 2005 ruling in Granholm v. Heald required additional litigation to remove discriminatory trade barriers that prohibit of-age consumers from receiving wine for personal enjoyment directly from out-of-state wineries and retailers. Coalition for Free Trade achieved it’s objectives and “retired” in 2014.
Family Winemakers of California
Family Winemakers of California advocates the rights and interests of its members to freely produce, market and sell their products, and is dedicated to preserving the broad diversity of California wine. In fulfilling its mission, the association has sponsored legislation to expand the ability of wineries, particularly small producers, to compete in the marketplace. Additionally, FWC took a leadership role in pushing and funding the litigation strategy to open up domestic markets for direct-to-consumer wine sales. That investment resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned discriminatory laws in Michigan and New York (Granholm v. Heald).
Napa Valley Vintners
Founded in 1944, the Napa Valley Vintners is a regional trade group with an active membership of more than 400 wineries, representing a tradition of dedicated vintners and grape growers who have worked and cared for this premier winegrowing region since the early 1800s.
The mission of WineAmerica is to encourage the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy. With more than 800 members from 48 states WineAmerica is the only wine trade association with national membership. This provides formidable grass roots lobbying strength used to benefit the entire industry.
Established in 1934, the Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group of more than 1,100 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiate and advocate state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The Wine Institute membership represents 85 percent of U.S. wine production and 95 percent of U.S. wine exports