Texas lawmaker calls ban on out-of-state wine sales “ridiculously anti-competitive” and a violation of Texans’ rights as consumers

matt-rinaldi-texasFor years, I have argued — here on my blog and in the Houston Press — that the Texas ban on out-of-state wine sales runs counter to Republican and red-state values and ideals.

No one needs me to tell them how Texan Republicans stand for fewer regulations, less government interference, and more liberal free trade policies that make the state a great home for businesses — small and large.

Yet when it comes to how wine is imported, distributed, sold, and shipped in the state of Texas, my state’s government has imposed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation.

When I read last week about a new bill that would lift the out-of-state ban on industry advocate Tom Wark’s blog last week, I immediately called the office of Texas state representative Matt Rinaldi (above), the author of the bill, and requested an appointment to interview him for my wine column for the Houston Press.

I met with him yesterday in his office in the state capitol: here’s the link to my article this morning for the paper.

It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the incongruity between the Texans’ love of freedom and the way wine, beer, and spirits are sold in our state. The bottom line is that the Texas wholesalers lobby has historically shaped shipping and sales regulations to suit their love of profit. Texan wine lovers are among the victims of their greed and their unscrupulous methods in driving out competition. And more importantly, their unbridled love of money continues to stifle wine culture in this state.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered leading wine professionals — not to mention aspiring wine professionals — who simply don’t have access to some of the world’s most iconic wines because they are unavailable in Texas. I remember meeting two Master Sommelier candidates at the airport in Austin as they were traveling to San Francisco to taste in a liberal wine market (liberal in terms of regulation) where they would have a much wider range of wines available to them. It’s enough to make a Texan eat her hat.

Texans, said Rinaldi when we met yesterday in Austin, “should be given the freedom to do what makes them happy as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of anyone else.”

To borrow Wark’s phrase, HALLELUJAH! Click here to read the interview in the Houston Press.

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