Pa. makes a mark in direct-to-consumer wine market


Pennsylvanians last year embraced their new ability to have wine from across the country shipped directly to their homes.

Since August 18, when the first direct shipping was issued under a law that brought sweeping changes to the state's liquor system, Pennsylvanians spent $21.8 million on 59,041 cases of wine through this new channel, a combined report published Thursday by Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines & Vines estimated.

"We knew Pennsylvania would be an important state. I think it was surprising how fast it took off," said Kent Nowlin, general manager of ShipCompliant, a software package designed to ensure that wineries fulfill myriad state laws.

"A year ago, Massachusetts was the big story," Nowlin said. It started allowing direct-wine shipping at the beginning of 2105, "but it didn't really take off. Pennsylvania took off right out of the gate," he said.

Pennylvania's 59,041 cases of direct-shipped wine ranked 22nd last year among the 44 states that allow direct-to-consumer wine shipping. But that was for just over four months, which means Pennsylvania could land in the top 10 this year, ShipCompliant said.

ShipCompliant's case estimate is higher than an estimate of 50,649 cases based on $301,000 in wine excise taxes collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue since the law took effect.

ShipCompliant's estimated 2016 totals for New Jersey are 78,148 cases worth $40.5 million.

Notable for Pennsylvania is the average price per bottle of $30.73, which ranked near the bottom. Pennsylvanians leaned toward lower-priced variatals, such as chardonnay and merlot, driving down the average, ShipCompliant said.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board did not have information on direct-wine shipments, but is developing reporting mechanisms for direct-wine shipments and other new programs under last year's landmark liquor laws and hopes to have reports ready this spring, said Elizabeth Brassell, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

As of Friday, the PLCB had issued 828 direct-wine shipping licenses with another 73 pending.