0 The Tech Behind That Wine Website

One thing that most of us don’t realize about buying online is that there is often a lot of technology behind each and every purchase.
As an owner of an online wine club I can attest that the process that goes on behind the scenes of an industry, like the wine industry, that is highly regulated would surprise a lot of people.

Credit Card & Billing Checks

Like most ecommerce sites, you have the regular checks of credit card details and billing zip codes.  The goal here is simple and straight forward, to make sure the money is available either in the bank account in question or on the credit line and to ensure that the person ordering the wine is in fact, the owner of the card.  You might be surprised to learn that only a zip code is checked and a name is not associated with the credit card in any way.

Shipping Address & State Regulations Checks

Secondly, wine offers a second set of unusual checks on the ecommerce side of things.  After Prohibition ended over eighty years ago, the federal government decided that each state should be allowed to make their own alcohol laws.  As you might expect, that has led each and every state to allow a different set of laws which govern anyone’s ability to ship wine into their state.  A few examples to show how careful and meticulous any check of a shipping address has to be for wine:
California: As you might expect given that it is America’s largest wine producing state (by far) the law for shipping wine into California is considered reciprocal.  If you want access to America’s largest wine market of consumers, you have to allow California wineries and retailers to ship wine into your state.
Utah: Given the religious nature of the state (in the Mormon religion drinking alcohol, like caffeine is forbidden) it isn’t surprising that there are no direct shipments of wine to consumers.  Now, like anything there are certain ways around those type of laws.  I know at least a handful of wineries that ship wine to a place of worship, where it can be marked as sacramental and then passed on to the ordering consumer.  This isn’t common though and for my wine business, Utah is a no go state.

Texas: Without a doubt, the most frustrating state for my online wine club.  We have a ton of family and friends in Texas.  It’s the biggest market for wine that we aren’t allowed in.  The laws are simple.  If you’re a winery, you are generally able to get a permit to ship wine into the state.  Out of state retailers are not allowed to have permits, unless you are big enough to open a warehouse and move jobs into the state.  It’s a weird law and one where a state with the idelogical bend of Texas (free market love and all) should be allowing all the competition into the state, right?
In any case, I hope you have enjoyed that fun and slightly frustrating look into the world of wine being sold online.
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Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club focused on servicing consumers looking for the best wine around, not the cheapest.


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