Judge Friot Sides with Corporate Wine Wholesalers

Originally uploaded by Kwai.
California mega-producers should soon see relief from the burden of liquor store shelf competition from Oklahoma's hardy band of family winemakers. Truly, this is a victory for gigantic production tank 'McWines' everywhere and the well-heeled chemists that produce them.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot found the amendment that voters passed to allow our state's winemakers to sell their products without using a wholesaler, to be to be unfair to Gallo and other out-of-State mega-corporations. The goal appears to be to level the playing field for cheap, unintimidating wines sporting the labels of consistent campaign contributors.

Wine is apparently the one domestic industry where small independent local producers are unfairly taking advantage of their locations to sell products to their neighbors. Some might call it a throwback to the days when Oklahoma's leaders supported economic growth that resulted in banks, department stores, newspapers and other businesses that were locally owned and operated. The European tradition that values smaller, family-owned wineries and emphasizes quality and variety...that is Old Europe. The future belongs to so-called 'absentee economies', where the ownership and control of rural land is shifted out of local counties and into distant boardrooms.

Of course, if the Oklahoma legislature is truly interested in supporting equality and/or small agri-businiess, they will ignore the donations of wholesalers and allow unrestricted direct sales and self-distribution for both in-state and out-of-state wineries. Oklahoma wine consumers deserve it and Oklahoma's economic needs demand it. You can order everything from Viagra to Valium on the internet today and have it direct shipped to your Oklahoma home...why not wine?

In the United States, Constellation Brands, E. & J. Gallo Winery and the Wine Group -- combined to sell 171 million cases of wine in 2005, according to Wine Business Monthly. This is about 60 percent of total U.S. wine sales. Just think how successful they could have been if Oklahoma farmers had been fighting fair!

Judge Stephen Friot stayed his Nov. 15 order until summer to allow our Oklahoma state lawmakers to 'address the situation'.

Wine industry industrialists tell us that globalization of markets and multinational corporations can help an economy. However, they must do it at the expense of local economies. I prefer to buy locally and to work regionally rather than globally.

Look at the fully corporatized poultry industry before you decide that evolving, away from family farms can improve life in rural Oklahoma.

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