A new wine bill could mean more wineries can charge for tastings

Kate Acland, founder of Sugar Loaf Wines, says a change in the law that allows wineries to charge for tastings could mean tourists have more options to choose from as more wineries open in the country. audience.

provided/provided

Kate Acland, founder of Sugar Loaf Wines, says a change in the law that allows wineries to charge for tastings could mean tourists have more options to choose from as more wineries open in the country. audience.

Potential tasters could have more cellar doors to choose from if a bill allowing small wineries to charge for tastings passes, wine experts say.

The Alcohol Sales and Supply Amendment Bill passed a vote by members on Friday. If passed, the bill would allow unlicensed wineries to charge for wine tastings. The bill was proposed by Stuart Smith MP.

Two years ago cellars called for such achange, saying that if they couldn’t charge for tastings, they weren’t profiting from tourism.

Licensed cellar doors and tasting rooms may charge for wine samples and tastings, but unlicensed ones, by law, must let customers drink for free. Those with a permit must sell food.

READ MORE:
* Six must-see cellar doors in Marlborough
* Five of Gibbston’s best wineries
* Taste, spit and ask for more: the FAQ on wine tourism

Under the Liquor Sales and Supply Act, the licensee must provide a “reasonable” amount of available food, at reasonable prices and within a reasonable time of being ordered.

Managing director and founder of Blenheim’s Sugar Loaf Wines, Kate Acland, said Covid had given wineries a boost as their doors were mostly closed to the public.

Charging for tastings wouldn’t necessarily mean profits for the winery, but would help offset the costs, and meant they could open the doors of the winery to the full-time public, Acland said.

PROVIDED

How a professional tastes wine.

Such a bill would be good for wine regions because more small wineries would open their doors to the public, giving tourists more options to choose from, Acland said.

Doing tastings didn’t mean selling directly to the public, but visitors who had a personal connection to a winery often became a winery’s champions. It was essential for small wineries, she said.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said this would mean a winery would be considered a low-risk venue that could sell alcohol.

Although a license cost less than $1,000, there were significant hurdles a winery had to jump through to get one, he said.

It would have to make changes to building infrastructure at high cost to separate licensed and unlicensed areas, he said.

Gregan said wineries had been hit hard by Covid and unnecessary red tape had prevented them from bouncing back.

“Current legislation is outdated. This either forces wineries to give away wine for free or forces them to go through significant cost and time to acquire and maintain a separate license,” he said.

Elisha A. Tilghman