How to mail wine in the U.S.
June 18, 2007 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Is is possible to mail wine from one person to another person in the United States?

I'm specifically trying to send wine from California to Connecticut. A guy at K&L (wine seller) told me that UPS is likely the best, but a woman at UPS told me today that nobody mails wine from person to person. Corporate accounts can do it, but not individuals. So what's up with that bullshit? Doesn't seem very "American" ...
posted by mrgrimm to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Individuals can, but for many states, companies are not allowed to. I'm not a postal person or a wine maker, but last weekend I was in Washington's wine country and we asked about the rules: they have a map of states that have reciprocity with Washington and they're allowed to mail wine to. There are five or ten that don't have reciprocity, and 2 that don't allow any states to do it- and consider it a felony.

On the other hand, individuals can send it to other individuals with no legal problems, at least from what the winemakers were telling us.
posted by arnicae at 10:55 AM on June 18, 2007

individuals can send it to other individuals with no legal problems, at least from what the winemakers were telling us.

hmm. thanks for the input.

for one thing, I know that it is totally illegal to send mail via the USPS.

however, I thought that UPS or FedEx (or DHL or whatever) would do it. It's possible that I got bad info, but UPS and FedEx will not ship it. I tried.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2007

I think there are tax issues involved. The 21st Amendment gives legal control over alcohol sales to the individual states, which for the most part means that most states tax the living daylights out of alcohol sales. So they don't like having alcohol shipped in where they didn't get the opportunity to levy taxes.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2007

We went to a Mailboxes Etc type store in Minnesota to mail some wine to ourselves in Seattle. The first clerk said we couldn't since it was liquor, but then the manager came out and said yes, they could, there was a new law or something. We sent it and it arrived fine. I think he stuck a sticker on it saying someone over 21 had to sign for it, BUT no one was home when it arrived and it was just left on our porch.
posted by GaelFC at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2007

How does UPS know what's in your box?
posted by Nelson at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2007

I don't think UPS, FedEx or USPS will knowingly ship wine for individuals. USPS won't ship it at all, and the other two only through specially registered shippers, at least according to their websites, although I didn't read their rules exhaustively. If you declare that the package contains wine inside the "glassware" they probably won't accept it.
posted by caddis at 11:35 AM on June 18, 2007

From what I remember hearing about this, Steven C. Den Beste is is correct, and that it does vary state by state. That said, winery folks have told me that just calling it "olive oil" on the package/receipt/whatever effectively covers it; they'll never check.
posted by a_green_man at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2007

This is a problem that comes up a lot in the homebrew community. Consensus seems to be that as long as you use UPS or FedEx (*not* USPS), and don't tell them what it in the package, you'll probably be ok. You will at least be violating the shipping company's rules, and maybe state law as well, so just be aware.

This article is as good place to start.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2007

Free The Grapes has info on legality issues.
posted by phearlez at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2007

A bit more googling reveals UPS only will take it from authorized shippers to authorized recipients, and only wine. Fed Ex allows authorized shippers to send wine either to consumers or businesses. Here's a bit more interesting info on who ships where, and to whom, but only designed for wineries.

A lawyer on the same site suggests that individuals can still send wine as gifts to other individuals, but adds that this isn't intended as legal advice and suggests people consult this chart of California -> other states legalities.
posted by arnicae at 11:42 AM on June 18, 2007

Mark the package "Glassware", don't say the word "wine", and nobody will give you any beef about it. I ship wine via FedEx all the time.
posted by pdb at 11:48 AM on June 18, 2007

This was in the NYT Saturday. The US govt used to pay for Marines to ship personal stashes of wine around bases. And I guarantee you there are wives surreptitiuosly shipping hooch to Iraq right now.
posted by mattbucher at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2007

pdb has it -- mark it as fragile glassware and UPS/FedEx will be happy to ship it. Tell'em it's holy water.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2007

I know nothing about the legality of mailing wine via different vendors. But if we assume that it's all illegal, here are a few points to consider:

- USPS needs a warrant to open your mail. This involves paperwork. No one wants to deal with it, so unless you package is reeking of mj or leaking white powder out the corners, you are probably pretty safe sending things illegally via USPS.

- FedEx and UPS, on the other hand, can open your packages whenever they darn feel like it. However, they may be less likely to care about your illegal wine shipping because they are not the federal government.

I would just send the wine marked as olive oil and send it via whichever vendor your prefer. 999 out of 1000 cases you will have problems at all.
posted by bluenausea at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2007

One time I sent six bottles of beer to a friend in the UK. I labelled the package "soda pop" and sent them via US Mail. They arrived just fine.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2007

The, uh, "glassware" thing has worked really, really well before. I'm told. I'm just sayin'. (Whistles, walks away suspiciously....)
posted by gimonca at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2007

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