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Local wine makers want to cut out middle man

August 21, 2013|By Rachel Lake ( | WSBT-TV

Indiana Lawmakers are looking at allowing wineries to sell directly to retailers.

Right now, it's illegal for wineries to sell or ship their products directly to retailers. Many wine makers say that is standing in the way of their business growth.

About eight years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that if out of state wineries have to sell their products through a distributor than so do in-state wineries. But a committee in the state legislature is considering a proposal to change that. It's a proposal one local wine maker strongly supports.

John D'Avella takes pride in his wine.

"This is our second best selling wine," he said and he poured a bottle of semi-sweet blackberry and concord flavored country wine.


D'Avella and his wife make and sell their wine in Granger.

"We do Concord and Niagara," D'Avella explained. "The grapes have been growing here for fifty years."

D'Avella would love to grow their business, but he says the middle man is getting in the way.

"Shipping or distributing to a restaurant or stores is forbidden, you have to get a distributor to pick you up," he said.

And that's half the battle.

"So they control whether they want to sell your product or not so because you're not big they don't want to handle you, but how do you get big unless you have a distributor? It's a catch 22," said D'Avella.

A state legislative committee met Wednesday morning to look into a proposal that would do away with the middle man, allowing in and out of state wineries to sell their products directly to restaurants and stores. It's a proposal, Wine and Spirits Distributors of Indiana, a group representing three large distributors strongly opposes.

"We're the state police force when it comes to making sure a licensee is not selling to kids for example or that a bar is not just pouring a drink down someone's throat till they get so drunk they can't walk," said Jim Purucker, the group's executive director. "The system breaks down in that there's nobody checking to make sure the taxes are paid."

The group also says the proposal would put distributors out of business.

"It's okay for the wineries to talk about what's good for their economics, it's okay for me to talk about what's good for my economics," said Purucker.

Local wine makers like D'Avella say business is good for them too. But change in the state legislature could make it better.

For now, the legislative committee is studying the proposal. It'll meet a few more times before voting on a recommendation.

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