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Q: Why is there a three tier system?                            

In today’s beverage alcohol industry, the three-tier system is a responsible and efficient distribution system that delivers adults the widest variety of products available anywhere in the world in a manner that controls access for of-age consumers, delivers tax revenue to local, state and federal governments, and ensures product safety and consumer protection.

  • In the first tier, alcohol beverages are produced at distilleries, breweries and wineries around the world. These facilities and their owners pay excise taxes required by the federal government. 
  • In the middle tier are wholesalers. Wholesalers are the important central link in the three-tier system of beverage alcohol production, distribution and sales in place in the United States, and collect state excise taxes as well. They are also the local marketing, logistics and distribution experts for the many thousands of brands and products available to consumers at hundreds of thousands of retail and on-premise locations throughout the country.
  • Wholesalers deliver products in a manner that guarantees product integrity and consumer safety. The successful regulatory structure is a direct result of the three-tier system and are a testament to the legacy of the states that voted to ratify the 21st Amendment.
  • Lastly, the third tier is represented by outlets where Americans purchase beverage alcohol: bars and restaurants (known as on-premise locations) and retail establishments (known as off- premise locations). 

Q: What does WSWM do to protect underage drinking?

Wholesalers support comprehensive underage access and drunk driving policies and offered model legislation for ignition interlocks adopted in the federal highway bill. Wholesalers work hand in hand with suppliers, retailers, and government regulators to ensure product is sold in a transparent, accountable fashion.

All tiers of the beverage alcohol industry have a vested interest and a commitment to keeping alcohol out of the hands of underage drinkers. To meet this challenge, industry leaders from the retail, supplier and wholesale sectors have joined together to re-launch a campaign created several years ago by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer watchdog organization.

The “We Don’t Serve Teens...And You Shouldn’t Either” campaign will begin this fall with high profile events and media outreach taking place in major markets across the country.

In addition, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers will work together to deploy billboards, online advertising and point of sale materials underscoring their shared commitment to the campaign. Members of the industry know first-hand that an effective campaign can help raise awareness of this important issue and help draw attention to the dangers of underage drinking.

Q: How do I gain access to wine from a small winery in California if you do not sell it?

A consumer can procure any wine they wish from a winery. In order to ship wine to Massachusetts, the winery can apply for a license with the state, which can be obtained easily. There are currently more than 30 wineries with direct shipping licenses.

There is a common misconception out there that if you lived in Massachusetts, you cannot receive wine shipped from a winery in or out of state. This is simply not true.

Although the Legislature passed a bill in 2014  allowing direct shipping, wineries have been allowed to ship directly to Massachusetts consumers since 2006.  As in the past, the wineries must apply for a permit and pay taxes and deliver to someone that is 21 years or older.

Click here for the application.