Legislators give Ohio’s wine drinkers something to toast

Wine drinkers can raise a glass to a new Ohio law that gives them an opportunity for an unprecedented discount on wines they buy from retailers in Ohio.

The change in state alcohol law allows Ohio retailers to give a 10 percent “case discount” to a consumer buying six bottles or more of wine. Previously, wine enthusiasts were required to purchase the equivalent of at least a 12-bottle case of standard-sized (750 ml) bottles before earning a 10 percent discount.

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The new language in the state statute entitled “Rules for dealing in and distributing and selling bottled wine” was embedded into the two-year state budget legislation that was signed into law late Friday by Gov. John Kasich.

John Fortney, spokesman for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus, said the 10 percent discount “is available for any number of cases, if the retailer wants to offer it.” The case can be between six and 12 bottles and still qualify for a discount, Fortney said.

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And the bottles don’t all have to be the same wine. The language was amended late in the process to clarify that customers can mix and match the wines in their case and still qualify for the discount, if the retailer is offering one.

“That case could be pinot noir, cabernet, pinot grigio, etc.” Fortney said.

Price competition at the retail level on wines is rare in Ohio, primarily because of state laws that mandate a three-tier system and require a minimum markup from the producer to the wholesaler, and from the wholesaler to the retailer.

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Reaction to the new law from retailers was mixed. Todd Templin, who oversees the wine departments at all three Dorothy Lane Market stores, said he welcomed the change and would start offering the 10 percent discount as soon as the law takes effect.

Mif Frank, who oversees the Arrow Wine & Spirits store on Far Hills Avenue in Kettering, said he needs to gather more information before deciding what to do. Frank said he believes the new law will likely hurt some retailers in the long run.

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During a Saturday afternoon drop-in tasting at Dorothy Lane Market’s Oakwood store, one Beavercreek couple said they supported the law’s change.

“I’m thrilled,” said Martie Szelog of Beavercreek. “I like seeing our country promoting wine drinking, not for abuse, but as part of an appreciation of good food and wine.”

The lower threshold of six bottles will make the 10 percent discount available to a broader cross-section of wine buyers, rather than benefiting just higher-income buyers of full cases, Szelog said.

Szelog’s husband, John Szelog, summed up his reaction succinctly:

“It’s about time,” he said.

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