Utah ranked dead last among the least wine-friendly states in the nation while California received an A-plus rating as the most consumer-friendly in a report from the Washington, D.C.-based American Wine Consumer Coalition.
“Utah wine consumers labor under the most restrictive laws in the nation, and that experience is nearly untenable for anyone who enjoys fine wine,” said Tom Wark, executive director of the nonprofit coalition, which advocates for less strict alcohol laws.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who writes most state liquor legislation, said Utah’s lowest ranking “is a badge of honor. It shows we take seriously the effects of alcohol on society.”
The report, “Consuming Concerns: the 2013 State-by-State Report Card on Consumer Access to Wine,” rated states on access and convenience in purchasing wine after asking wine lovers what was important to them.
The report noted a single advantage for Utah imbibers. State law allows consumers to “bring a bottle of wine from their own collection into a restaurant to enjoy with their meal.”
But only Utah and Pennsylvania have liquor monopolies that control the retail sale of wine, “depriving consumers of the benefits of competition and free trade such as choice and lower prices,” according to the report.
Utah also “arbitrarily prohibits the sale of wine on Sunday” when state-controlled stores are closed. The report noted that three other states, Indiana, Minnesota and Oklahoma, have imposed similar bans.
In addition, Utah was among 17 states that prohibit wine sales in grocery stores; one of 11 states that ban the shipment of wine from wineries to consumers; and among 36 states that prohibit retailer-to-consumer shipping.
California was ranked No. 1 for its specialty wine shops and wine sales in grocery stores, as well as direct shipment to consumers from both wineries and wine retailers. California also was credited for competition among retail outlets, Sunday wine sales and allowing consumers to bring their own wine to restaurants.
Idaho was among the top-ranked states for wine-consumer friendliness, failing only by blocking consumers from bringing wine into dining establishments.
Wyoming was considered friendly, with the exception of its ban on grocery store wine sales while Montana received a low ranking because of its prohibition of direct wine shipments and its ban on diners bringing wine to restaurants.
Since Prohibition, state laws governing access to wine has created a “complex and difficult to understand legal quilt,” according to the report.
“Eighty years after passage of the 21st Amendment,” the report noted, “many of the alcohol and wine-related laws put in place in the 1930s are still in place in most states, despite a cultural, economic and commercial reality that is starkly different from the 1930s.”
Utah wine laws
Government • State liquor monopoly controls the retail sale of wine.
Eateries • Allows consumers to bring a bottle of wine to restaurants.
Blue laws • Prohibits the sale of wine on Sundays when state-controlled stores are closed.
Access • Bans wine sales in grocery stores, prohibits shipment from wineries and retailers to consumers.
Source: American Wine Consumer Coalition