- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota wine connoisseurs remain hopeful lawmakers still might make it easier to import their favorite vintages, even though the Legislature turned back their request to let wineries ship directly to consumers.

South Dakota is one of nine states that don’t allow direct wine shipping.

A legislative board this week approved a summer study on alcohol distribution and sales that could result in proposed policy changes. It will examine the three-tier system of alcohol sales which includes producers, wholesalers and retailers.

A group of Sioux Falls anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists who enjoy drinking wine together drafted a bill last year that failed to pass the Legislature this past session.

“It’s all about consumer choice. We have a right to choice,” said Don Roesler, a nurse anesthetist who is president of the group, South Dakotans for Better Wine Laws.

Roesler and his colleagues like to travel to wineries on the west coast and feel frustrated that they can’t order that wine delivered to their home.

Sen. Corey Brown, who sponsored wine group’s shipping bill, said the current alcohol laws, which he calls “archaic,” were set up immediately after Prohibition.

“This issue of wine shipment is indirectly the result of the way the whole system is set up,” Brown said.

Brown hopes the study will help legislators modernize the laws. He said there’s been some resistance from wholesalers who feel threated by the possibility of direct wine deliveries.

Roesler said direct wine shipping hasn’t affected the three-tier system in the 41 states who allow it. He said such a change will bring $200,000 a year to South Dakota in tax revenue and license fees.

Republican Speaker of the House Brian Gosch voted against the study on Wednesday.

“There are some people who are particular about the wine they drink,” Gosch said. “I don’t know that the state needs to get involved.”

He said that he is not a wine drinker and doesn’t have a stake in the alcohol industry. He said another wine shipping bill may come out of the summer study with a slew of sponsors from the study committee.

Al Schroeder, secretary for South Dakotans for Better Wine Laws, said the group will be watching.

“We’re anxious to see what they come up with, and we’ll take our lead from that,” he said.

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