MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Grocers Association here is sending out celebratory announcements that grocery retailers in this state are now able to offer wine tasting due to legislation backed by the 1,000-member grocers group and recently signed into law.
"This issue has been a priority for the Wisconsin Grocers Association for many years," said WGA President Brandon Scholz.
The law applies to Class A retailers in the state, which include all stores that sell alcohol for off-premise consumption.
The customer can have two 3-ounce samples of wine per visit, and tastings can be done only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week, says the law, which also states that retailers must comply with municipal ordinances regarding the sale of wine.
Joe Verhagen, president of Kaukauna, Wis.-based Larry's Markets, which operates four Piggly Wiggly stores in the Fresh Brands group of Sheboygan, told SN that he is now checking to see what the local municipalities want.
"Our assumption is that we can help sell, whether it be a different variety or an upsell to a little better wine. At the holidays, more people buy wine who normally don't, so a lot of people don't know what they want. If we can help them, I think we can do well," he said.
Bearing in mind the limitation of the law, Verhagen said his three stores that do sell wine may offer tastings just on the weekend, say on Sunday afternoon, if it doesn't conflict too much with football.
Trig's Food & Drug, Minocqua, Wis., has been anticipating the move by renovating one store to include a 5,000-square-foot liquor department and a wine tasting bar. Lee Guenther, president of Trig's Food & Drug, said that his company's goal is to match the right wine to the meal. "In today's market, there are so many different brands and types of wine that without sampling them first, customers cannot fully appreciate the product and how it can complement their meal."
Scholz said allowing wine tasting benefits everyone involved. He predicted that the state will generate more sales tax from additional wine sales, wine distributors will see increased business, and consumers will become better educated on wine and benefit from its health-enhancing properties. Finally, he said, "retailers are able to increase sales from wine and other co-marketed products."
Wisconsin State Senator Roger Breske, a Democrat, and Mark Pettis, a Republican assemblyman, co-sponsored the bill, which was signed Aug. 28 by Gov. Scott McCallum as a non-fiscal part of the 2001-2003 state budget package, and became law Oct. 1.