TEXAS WINERIES GIVEN APPROVAL TO SAMPLE IN SUPERMARKETS

AUSTIN, Texas -- State wineries are now permitted to conduct tastings inside area supermarkets after a recent ruling by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission here. According to Derek Jones, acting director of marketing practices for TABC, wineries were only permitted to conduct samplings on their own premises prior to the ruling. Supermarkets could not officially offer samples on-site. Under the

AUSTIN, Texas -- State wineries are now permitted to conduct tastings inside area supermarkets after a recent ruling by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission here. According to Derek Jones, acting director of marketing practices for TABC, wineries were only permitted to conduct samplings on their own premises prior to the ruling. Supermarkets could not officially offer samples on-site. Under the new ruling, they still cannot be directly involved with the events. The legislation went into effect last September, but due to some confusion, TABC sent out an official letter on June 18 clarifying it and offering guidance.

"The recent legislation now allows the holders of the winery permit to go into retail accounts if the retail account is authorized to sell wine," Jones told SN. "The winery can go into [supermarkets] and conduct a wine tasting, but it's going to be independent of the retailer. The retailer is not going to participate in it whatsoever. The retailer and its employees can't pour, they can't participate in the sampling, or in asking questions or anything. It's got to be entirely conducted by the holder of the winery permit."

Jones said he didn't believe any tasting events had been conducted as of yet, but he thinks once under way, they will benefit all parties involved. The wineries, he said, have the opportunity to educate consumers about their product while the grocer benefits from having a newly motivated wine shopper right there in the store.

"We have been getting a lot of inquiries and, from the calls that we've received, a lot of folks are pretty interested," Jones said.

However, there are still potential obstacles to overcome when pouring samples of alcohol to shoppers. Joe Ratcliff, government relations for the Texas Grocery & Convenience Association, also based here, told SN he thinks the negatives may outweigh the positives.

"In any kind of tasting, you are going to have to have some control over it, just like you do on selling cigarettes. You're not able to sell to anyone underage," Ratcliff said. "It would put an extra liability responsibility on them and would endanger their permit just to do sampling. I can't see that it would be worth it."