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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I have some wine I’d like to sell. I just found out that I can’t ship them via the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx. How do I go about not only selling wine, but shipping these bottles?
—Cameo H., Greenwood Village, Colo.
After the repeal of Prohibition, the states came up with their own laws on how to handle alcohol, which has resulted in a pretty tangled web of restrictions regarding things like shipping wine and even BYOB laws. For a comprehensive look at individual state shipping laws, check out Wine Spectator's "U.S. Wine Shipping Laws, State by State." It's legal in many states for licensed wineries to ship wine across state lines; the same for retailers in a much smaller number of states. But it's illegal in every state for a consumer to personally ship wine anywhere, and most couriers are pretty wise to the carefully padded, highly insured “bottle of olive oil” you might be trying to sneak past them.
While some states allow for a producer or retailer to ship wine directly to buyers, if you’re a consumer, you probably don’t have a liquor license, which means it’s illegal for you to sell your wines on your own. That means you’ll need to find a licensed third party who can legally help you out, like an auction company that can handle the logistical aspects and sell your wine on consignment. Keep in mind that most folks who are spending some serious money on wine will want documentation on the wine's provenance, or how it has been stored. Legally selling wine is neither a quick nor easy way to make money.
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