Last Call

Tennessee Considers More Wine in Grocery Stores with Legislation

By - February 23, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

Wine in Grocery Store legislation, which we affectionately call WIGS, allowed Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016, with a food store license issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

WIGS was a messy compromise.  We expected that WIGS would be revised to fix thorny issues.

A bill pending in the 2017 Tennessee Legislature will change the legal definition of wine and, in our humble opinion, allow food stores to legally sell many wine coolers and wine cocktails that are already on shelves.

Here is the problem.  Current law says that wine sold by a grocery store must be:

the product of the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of fresh, sound, ripe grapes, with the usual cellar treatment and necessary additions to correct defects due to climatic, saccharine and seasonal conditions, including champagne, sparkling and fortified wine of an alcoholic content not to exceed eighteen percent (18%) by volume. No other product shall be called “wine” unless designated by appropriate prefixes descriptive of the fruit or other product from which the same was predominantly produced, or an artificial or imitation wine.

Are you asleep yet?  Seriously, the definition is so hopelessly complicated that in our opinion, it is pretty much unenforceable by the TABC.

Pending legislation expands the definition of wine to eliminate the controversy.

The Tennessee ABC describes the legislative change at Sections 4, 5, and 6 – Definition of Wine  SB695-HB435 Legislation Summary

The entire bill is here.  HB0435

Paralegal extraordinaire Vicki reminds us of a fitting Kenny Chesney song:

Mama told them Jesus loves a sinner
His daddy said that music saved his soul
Between the rockers and the band
It’s a fitting promise land

William T. Cheek III

William T. Cheek III

As the only Tennessee attorney named Best Lawyers in America for Food and Beverage Law, Will Cheek leads firm’s Alcoholic Beverage Team and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs, craft distilleries and breweries. Will’s clients range from small chef-owned restaurants to large publicly traded corporations. He is nationally known as the go-to source for Tennessee liquor law and authors the blog Last Call, covering Tennessee alcohol, restaurant and hospitality news.
William T. Cheek III
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