US: wine retail group launches wholesale attack

[09/01/2008] A spat between wine wholesalers and retailers in the US worsened on Wednesday, after a prominent retail association defended its stance on interstate sales.

Tom Wark, the executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers' Association (SWRA) has reacted to recent comments made by Craig Wolf, the president and CEO of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA).

In a statement released by the WSWA on January 4 regarding the reporting by to the relevant authorities of companies that had illegally shipped alcohol direct to consumers, Wolf criticised Wark and the SWRA.

Wolf said: "An organisation ostensibly representing licensed retailers should be more concerned that its members may be violating the law, than a legitimate retailer is reporting those violations to the appropriate authorities."

Wark told Drinks International: "The idea expressed by Craig Wolf that I or Specialty Wine Retailers' Association has 'attacked' over its attempt to reduce consumer access to wine only demonstrates that ANY conversation about the faults of the three tier system (in the US) and especially about the anti-consumer wine legislation Mr. Wolf supports is viewed as an 'attack'. That should say something about the attitude of wine wholesalers.

"Let's be clear about what SWRA thinks about's in-house stings on fellow retailers. has stately publicly that: 'We’d like to see all states open up to interstate shipping of wine. This would be best for consumers, best for the health of the online wine business and best for and our customers.'

"The SWRA agrees," said Wark. "Given that position on the part of, we believe it would be far more effective for them to join with their fellow retailers at the SWRA in fighting those anti-consumer laws in court and in the legislatures. They've said no to this invitation numerous times and have failed to involve themselves in any of the significant legislative battles that directly effect their customers and wine lovers in general.

"This policy choice on the part of is their business. One hopes however that will give a hearty 'thank you' to the SWRA and its members, who have contributed significant amounts of money to this effort and done the heavy lifting, when we finally do "get all states open up to interstate shipping of wine"—as says it would like to see," said Wark.

To read Wolf's earlier comments click here .