Massachusetts wine and hard cider makers, threatened by ABCC advisory, live to see another day

Some thirty-four Massachusetts wine and hard cider producers will remain in business in 2015, thanks to an eleventh-hour legislative fix to an Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission advisory which would have crippled the small, farm-based operations.

The ABCC advisory, due to go into effect Jan. 1, would have prohibited so-called “farmer-wineries” from selling directly to stores and restaurants, forcing them instead to distribute their wares through one of the state’s licensed liquor wholesalers.

The November notice from state alcohol regulators appeared months after new shipping rules for farmer-wineries were signed into law in July. The intent of the legislative language, buried within the state budget bill, was to allow out-of-state wineries to ship directly to Massachusetts customers, an accommodation long-sought-after by wine industry lobbyists.

The unintended consequence was to make it illegal for small, in-state farmer-wineries to simply load up the minivan with a dozen cases and sell them directly to local stores and restaurants.