VinSense Aims to Open Local Wine Markets

Originally uploaded by s2art.

March 2, 2007

Hoosier Consumers Launch VinSense, Inc.
Grass-Roots Organization aims to Open Hoosier Market to Wines.

What would you think of a law that would send you to jail for ordering the wrong brand of cheese, bread, chocolate or coffee? That is precisely the situation we have in Indiana with regard to another gustatory pleasure: wine.

"We have, in this state, the vestiges of Prohibition, and it's called the three-tier system" says Dr. Allen Dale ("Ole") Olson. "As a result, we pay far too much for a poor selection of this healthful beverage. The Hoosier consumer is being taken to the cleaners, with the blessing of our legislators".

Ole developed a fine palate in his years working for the Defense Department in Europe. "We've come such a long way in this country in the appreciation of wine and food. It is a shame that we preach the gospel of free markets abroad, but squelch it at home" he says.

Ole and several enophiles have formed an Indiana not-for-profit corporation by the name of VinSense, Inc., to advocate for direct shipping in Indiana. "The three-tier system has been toppled in the majority of states, and it's only a matter of time before its swept away by market forces in Indiana as well" says Robert VanVleet, one of the organizers of VinSense and its first Treasurer. "Eighty-five percent of our population now lives with a free market. When I moved here from California, I was just amazed to see that it's illegal here to buy wines online. Why is that? Its just plain stupid" he says.

Stupid, yes. But also very profitable-for some. "The three-tier system consists of producers, wholesalers and retailers. The producers must sell to the wholesalers, and no one else. The retailers must buy from the wholesalers, and no one else. That creates a de facto monopoly for the wholesalers. They get to decide what we can drink in this state, and how much we're going to pay for it. Of late, the wholesalers have been writing our laws, too" says a frustrated Louis Melillo, Vice President.

Melillo and the other founders of VinSense have no illusions. "It won't be easy prying this privileged class from the public trough. They've been buying friends in the legislature for decades" he says wryly. "Our first objective is to educate the Hoosier consumer. Anyone who really understands this system will be outraged. When enough consumers get outraged, the politicians will finally listen". VinSense has an ambitious goal of attracting 10,000 members in its first year of existence.

The facts speak for themselves. Of all the wineries in the world, Indiana wholesalers will let Indiana consumers taste from fewer than five percent of them. "That's not a free market" says Ole. "In fact, that's not much of a market at all. Someone in Indianapolis doesn't need to tell me that I'm headed to jail for picking the wrong pinot noir".

The organization has launched a new website: www.vinsense.org. "It's irreverent, factual, and blunt. If our website were a wine, I'd definitely describe it as a 'Rhone Ranger'" says Ole.

Dr. Allen Dale Olson, President

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