Small Indiana wineries lobby for expanded distribution

("Wine" by Jeff Kubina, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Small wineries in Indiana are lobbying for the chance to sell their products direct to retailers and restaurants after the number of wine wholesalers in the state plummeted from hundreds to several dozen.

Under current rules, alcohol producers must use a wholesaler rather than self-distribute. But small wineries can have trouble attracting wholesalers because of their size. Small wineries are lobbying lawmakers for access to a micro-wholesaler permit that would allow them to distribute up to 12,000 gallons of wine annually, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported .

The permit has been available for about 12 years, but state law doesn’t allow permit holders to also own a winery.

“For a lot of wineries, that’s our primary issue this session,” said Jim Butler, owner of Bloomington-based Butler Winery and treasurer of the Indiana Winery & Vineyard Association.

Republican Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany has introduced legislation that would allow for businesses to own both a wholesale permit and a winery permit. The move will help wineries grow, he said.

“I just want everybody to have more wine,” Clere said. “It’s frustrating because small producers are finding it increasingly difficult to get their products into retailers and restaurants.”

Wine distributors Republic National and Southern Glazer’s both oppose the proposed legislation, said Jim Purucker, the executive director of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana, which represents the distributors.

Purucker said he’s concerned that larger companies may take advantage of the change and that the 12,000 cap won’t stay.

“We can’t just say it’s only 12,000 gallons,” Purucker said. “That limit will just continue to rise all the time.”