Georgia is a "Go": Residents Can Now Join Wine Clubs and Buy Wine Online from All Wineries

Tim Roden | May 14, 2008

Good news, wineries – shipping to Georgia just got a whole lot easier!

As we mentioned in a previous post, House Bill 1061 had passed in the House and has since passed in the Senate. It made its way onto the Governor’s table on April 15th, and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed it into law yesterday. The long-awaited bill amends Code Sections 3-6-31 and 3-6-20, a source of problems for many wineries. Before the bill passed, Georgia’s direct shipping laws were very restrictive, only allowing direct shipment by wineries without a distributor relationship in Georgia and by all wineries for onsite purchases. Onsite shipments were limited to five cases per consumer or per household.

However, the passage of the bill effected many favorable changes to Georgia’s direct shipment law. The statutory amendments eliminate the problematic provision which prohibited wineries from shipping offsite orders to Georgia residents if the wineries were represented by a distributor in Georgia. This significantly opens up the state to both in- and out-of-state wineries that were not previously permitted to ship offsite sales directly to consumers.

Furthermore, the amendments added a definition of “winery” to the statute, defining it as “any maker or producer of wine whether in this state or in any other state, who holds a valid federal basic wine manufacturing permit.” (Section 3-6-31(a)).

Another noteworthy change is the addition of the age verification requirement found in Section 3-6-20(d)(4):

“Before accepting an order from a consumer in this state, the holder of a special order shipping license shall require that the person placing the order state affirmatively that he or she is of the age required by Code Section 3-3-23 and shall verify the age of such person placing the order either by the physical examination of an approved government issued form of identification or by utilizing an Internet based age and identification service;”

The new age verification requirement strengthens the affirmative statement of age provision (as was required prior to the amendments), working to assuage the fears of those who believe direct shipping creates an unreasonable risk of online ordering by underage individuals.

The bill also introduces a few minor changes. A winery no longer has to post a bond, designate sales territories, or name a wholesaler in each territory (thereby taking a conflicting law off the books). Wineries are also prohibited from shipping to licensed premises and are required pay excise taxes and state and local sales taxes from every sale shipped to a consumer in Georgia. In addition, of-age individuals can now purchase up to 12 cases of wine from each licensee per year (up from 5 cases per household pre-HB 1061).

Overall, although wineries must still obtain a special order shipping license and brands must still be registered in order to ship into the state, HB 1061 is going to live up to expectations and prove itself a valuable step for proponents of direct shipping. More wineries can now direct ship to Georgia and reach more consumers, benefiting both Georgians and non-Georgians alike.

The bill takes effect July 1st, 2008. Stay tuned for more details and permit requirements.