PLCB nixes pricing rule for PA Preferred wineries

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced Monday that a regulation previously placed on wine pricing has been eliminated.

The requirement stated that a licensed Limited Winery could not sell wine at the winery for less than the price of the same wine at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores. The regulatory change took effect on Saturday.

“Previously, Pennsylvania wineries had to sell their wine to the PLCB for a significant discount to account for the agency’s markup and liquor tax,” said Joseph E. Brion, PLCB chairman. “We believe that requirement impacted what wine our in-state wineries sold to us. It is our hope the change will encourage wineries to expand their selection in our stores to benefit consumers and the industry as a whole.”

Currently, the PLCB sells more than 100 Pennsylvania wines. In July 2013, the agency launched the PA Preferred program, adding 43 new Pennsylvania wines to a select number of Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores across the commonwealth. Under the program, PA Preferred wineries are allowed to submit up to 10 wines to sell at up to 10 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores of their choosing. There are 12 wineries participating in the program.

According to the Pennsylvania Winery Association, the commonwealth has more than 150 wineries, infusing more than $2 billion into the economy.

Among those 150 wineries are Seven Mountains Wine Cellars, Juniata Valley Winery and Brookmere Winery. Although all three wineries are PA Preferred vendors, only Brookmere currently sells its wine in state stores.

“It is nice to see the PLCB’s commitment to the PA Preferred program, which its members are dedicated to using Pa. grown fruits and produce. Consumers more than ever desire to buy wines that are made from locally grown fruit and grape growers…” said Cheryl Glick, owner of Brookmere Winery. Glick said now that the rule has been rescinded, wineries will have more freedom in their pricing and could possibly offer better prices to patrons who visit their locations.

George Hazard III, of Juniata Valley Winery, and Scott Bubb, owner of Seven Mountains Wine Cellars cite similar reasons for opting out of selling their wines in the Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.

“We’re still relatively new and really, we’re just still trying to build that business and get established to the point where we can get the production to where that would be a comfortable fit for us,” Hazard said.

Bubb said he still considers Seven Mountains to be a small winery as well. Between the discount a vintner must offer the PLCB in order to sell wine in state stores and the fact that people are purchasing the stock at the Seven Mountains locations, Bubb has little motivation to sell his product anywhere else.

“It just doesn’t suit us,” Bubb said. “When you’re selling out of wine, you don’t need to that.”

For wineries participating in the program, PLCB board member Tim Holdren said the regulatory change is a small but important step.

“We will continue to look for ways to promote our in-state wineries, understanding that the wine industry is a very important business with significant economic impact on the state and local economies,” he said.

Sentinel Health/Business Editor Kim Hayes contributed to this report.