PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Wine enthusiasts are fighting the latest attempt to limit the direct shipment of wine to Pennsylvania consumers.
A pending bill would require wineries to ship consumer purchases to the state Liquor Control Board, which would then send the wine to the consumer for a fee.
Supporters believe direct wine shipments could deprive the state of tax revenue and make it easier for minors to buy wine.
However, critics say that Pennsylvania should look to New Hampshire and other states for a model. Thirty-five states allow direct shipments, including 12 of 19 "control" states with state-run liquor sales.
New Hampshire requires direct shippers to use licensed carriers, such as Federal Express or UPS, and to report the shipments to ensure that taxes are paid. The shipments must be clearly marked as containing alcohol, and an adult must sign for them at delivery.
"We have not found these two issues to be of significant negative consequence," said Mark Bodi, chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.
Pennsylvania's restrictive wine laws have been in flux since a series of federal and state court decisions three years ago, including one by a federal judge who called the state's ban on out-of-state wine shipments unconstitutional.
The judge blocked the state from enforcing its ban on shipments to consumers, although some wineries remain hesitant to ship directly to buyers.
The pending bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny, would allow direct shipments only from wineries that produce 80,000 gallons of wine a year or less. Costa hopes to limit the sales to in-state wineries.
Distributors who sell liquor to the Liquor Control Board fear that out-of-state shippers would undercut state store prices, which include a 30 percent markup over wholesale prices, a 6 percent sales tax, and an 18 percent "Johnstown Flood tax."
But the owner of Mazza Vineyards near Erie is urging state lawmakers to allow direct shipping.
"We really wish they'd recognize what's happened in other states," said Bob Mazza, who also serves as president of the Pennsylvania Winery Association.
"We're not opposed to the LCB," he said. Direct shipping "is really not going to cut into the LCB's profitability or revenue."