Private Collection Wine Sales Safe. . . For Now

Last fall, the New York State Liquor Authority (“NYSLA”) caused a stir in the fine wine market when it proposed to limit the sale of private collection wines. In a draft advisory intended “to provide guidance to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of wine or liquor with respect to proper purchase and sale of private collection wines and liquors,” NYSLA set forth a narrow and perplexing definition of “private collection wine.” This definition would have reduced the amount of wine that could be sold without a license. Now, the Authority has backed away from its plan to rein in these transactions.

                               SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY WEBSITE

                              SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY WEBSITE

As I explained in my original post, many of New York City’s high-end restaurants and auction houses source a portion of their wines from private collections, and the sellers of these wines are not required to obtain a license from NYSLA in order to sell that wine. Because private collection sales are minimally regulated, there are no reliable data on these transactions. We don’t know the number of sales, the type or quantity of wine sold, by whom, to whom, for how much, and whether the wine sold is available in a comparable amount at a comparable price in the three-tier system.

Opponents of the proposed advisory took to the Internet and direct advocacy to NYSLA to express their concerns and shed light on the practice of private collection sales. Now it seems that their voices have been heard. After postponing full Board consideration of the draft advisory, NYLSA announced on its website that it is no longer considering it. The entirety of the announcement appears in the screenshot above. As you can see, there is no explanation for NYSLA’s decision not to pursue the advisory. Thus, it is unclear whether the Authority concluded that further regulation of private collection transactions is bad policy, whether it intends to reformulate the draft, or whether the legislature will address the issue as part of the broader liquor law reform effort that is currently underway. For now, at least, the policy on private collection sales is unchanged.