Today, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., called for the federal government to reverse course and respect an Oregon state law that allows consumers to buy wine in refillable containers, more often known as growlers.
In a letter to the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the Oregon delegation asked the bureau to amend its recent decision, which could require wine retailers like restaurants and grocery stores to apply for status as wine bottling houses that would then be required to label and keep records like large-scale wineries. No similar limitations exist for selling beer in growlers.
Oregon has been selling beer and other malt beverages in growlers for years without additional requirements on retailers to acquire bottling licenses. While there are differences in the laws that govern beer and wine sales, consumers widely consider them to be similar products.
Last April, the Oregon legislature unanimously passed and Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill that allowed businesses with Oregon liquor licenses to fill and sell growlers of up to two gallons of wine.
"[This ruling] threatens to undermine the Oregon legislature's intent and the winemaking industry by requiring retailers such as grocery stores and restaurants, to maintain labels, licenses and records as if they were bottling wine themselves. Such requirements would unnecessarily burden these businesses and limit sales of these fine products," the delegation wrote.
In 2012, Oregon was the fourth largest producer of wine in the country, with more than 900 vineyards and 515 wineries.