Wine Delivery in the US is Complicated
Few things are more complicated than getting alcohol delivered to your door in the United States. The reasons why are outside of your control, but there is a workaround for ALMOST everywhere, and we’ve got all of the advice you need to get your booze fix sent to your home.
Who can deliver wine?
Alcohol delivery — whether it’s beer, wine, or spirits — is a highly regulated activity. Our governments, Federal, State and local, have a huge say in who can and who can’t deliver booze directly to consumers. They even have different rules for different types of alcohol… just be glad it’s not YOUR job to know all this stuff.
All of this control is executed through a combination of something now called the three-tier system and a series of laws governing who can be licensed to buy or deliver alcohol.
The three-tier system consists of three groups: Producers (wineries, breweries, and distilleries), Distributors/Wholesalers, and Retailers (stores, bars, and restaurants). Each group has their own set of restrictions, but as a consumer, you’ll only ever buy alcohol from Producers and Retailers. Both Producers and Retailers can hire delivery services to get the goods to your door.
Delivery services range from the big shipping companies like UPS and FedEx, to smaller local carriers, and even same-day on-demand delivery companies like Postmates and Amazon Go. There are some particulars to know about each of these types of delivery companies.
Fortunately, most of the time you can have alcohol delivered by a Producer or Retailer (wine shops and local liquor stores) in the state you live in. So, if you live in New York, you can get easily get alcohol from any New York wine retailer or winery. This should cover most of your needs, most of the time.
Buying from Producers
As I mentioned earlier, Producers include Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries. Laws governing Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) shipments have been loosening up immensely in the last decade — yay for consumers! This is largely in part of efforts by the non-profit FreetheGrapes.org who lobbies our government to modernize alcohol delivery legislation.
If you’re buying from a Producer, particularly a winery, delivery is pretty easy. Shipments from wineries to consumers are allowed in all states EXCEPT: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Utah. If you live in Ohio, Louisiana, or New Jersey you may be limited to how much wine you can get delivered. For full details, see Free the Grape's interactive delivery map.
Buying from Retailers
If you’re looking for something in particular and you can’t find it in your state, you’ll need to broaden your search to other states. This is when things start to get trickier.
We consulted Wine Spectator to get the latest info on getting wine sent to you by an out-of-state Retailer. We’ll break it down this way: If you live in Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, or Wyoming you can easily get booze delivered from anywhere in the country.
California, Idaho, New Mexico, and Wyoming let you order directly from wine stores in states with “reciprocal” privileges. This means these states will accept shipments from any state which also allows out-of-state retailer shipments. Seems reasonable, they play nice with other states who play nice.
If you live in any of the other 34 states, things can get complicated in a hurry. I cross-referenced three different sites who are all authorities on this subject: Free the Grapes, The Wine Institute, and The Wine Spectator. They all provided different information. Ultimately it is up to each Producer or Retailer to decide where they’ll ship wine and you’ll have to double-check with them before you purchase.
Want your wine autoshipped? Get a wine subscription! Browse wine subscriptions by where they deliver.
Amusing Anecdote Part I. I tried to order wine from Wine.com to have it shipped to my brother-in-law in Michigan. I picked out all of the wine I was interested in and added it to my cart. When I changed my shipping state from California (where I live a wine-privileged life) to Michigan I couldn’t order ANY of the wines I’d picked out.
Ultimately I was able to get the wine to Michigan by shipping them to Illinois and driving them to Michigan myself. I used a wine delivery method I’ll explain later in this article.
UPS and FedEx are called “common carrier services.” These companies ship wine to and from most destinations in the United States. Whether the packages are picked up at wineries, logistics companies, warehouses, or retail outlets, their reach is immense. They also offer perks (see the Make Delivery More Convenient section below).
Local carriers are sometimes employed within a state, like GSO (Golden State Overnight) in California. These companies often have special wine delivery services that keep your grapey friends in tip-top condition during transit.
Fun fact: USPS does not allow the shipment of alcohol of any kind.
Same-Day Delivery Services
If shipping wine across the country isn’t your idea of supporting your local economy, you can try same-day delivery services that offer on-demand booze, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes. The most common of these on-demand services are:
- Amazon Prime Now - Wine delivered from Whole Foods. They claim they deliver wine and beer but we’re having a hard time finding locations that offer it.
- DoorDash - Only delivers alcoholo with meals ordered from restaurants. Limited availability.
- Drizly - Available throughout most of urban and suburban North America, you can get same-day delivery for any party or game day.
- Favor - Only in Texas, they have partnered with HEB for alcohol delivery.
- Google Express - They claim they deliver wine and beer but we’re having a hard time finding anything other than home winemaking and home brewing kits.
- Instacart - Delivery almost everywhere alcohol is sold.
- MiniBar - Delivery in select locations.
- Postmates - Delivery almost everywhere alcohol is sold.
- Saucey - A limited number of cities are available for same-day delivery, but you get Saucey-employees delivering your booze instead of random contractors.
- Total Wine - Total Wine now offers Same Day delivery, but only on Winery Direct wines. So no Miraval, The Prisoner, or Rombauer showing up any time soon.
Get a full list of same-day wine delivery in your area here
Shipping Wine Yourself
Can you buy a bottle of wine and send it yourself? Unfortunately no. It is not legal for anyone other than a licensed Producer or Retailer to send wine via UPS or FedEx. USPS completely prohibits all alcohol sales. Full stop.
So… Where CAN I get wine delivered?
As was discussed at length earlier, getting wine delivered to your door can be tricky. Here’s a breakdown of places where it’s super easy to get wine delivered and where you just can’t get it delivered. If your address is not on either list, consider checking our full database of wine delivery services and locations.
Wine Delivery from Out-of-State Retailers
If the retailer is located in your state, it should be easy to get your wine delivered no matter what state you live in.
If the retailer is not located in your state, and you live in one of the following states, you also shouldn’t have any issues receiving wine:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
- Washington DC
Places where you can’t get wine delivered, period
Dry & Moist Counties
Some places just don’t want alcohol to be accessible. These places are pretty much locked down with “dry” counties and even zip codes. Dry refers to “no alcohol.” If you want to send someone, or yourself, wine in these areas, you’ll find the only means of doing so are illegal.
Completely dry counties are scattered throughout the following states:
- Florida (panhandle)
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- Texas (north)
- Utah (the whole state)
There are “moist” counties, too. These are counties which prohibit alcohol sales, but contain cities who allow it or where purchase is prohibited but possession is not. States with moist counties include:
- Alaska (north)
- Illinois (Cook County)
- Nevada (east)
- New Hampshire
- New York (upstate)
- North Carolina
Wineries absolutely cannot ship to:
How can I make delivery more convenient and affordable?
One of the biggest perceived drawbacks of getting wine delivered is the cost and inconvenience of delivery itself. While shipping wine can be expensive (it isn’t always) — delivery from local liquor stores, wine shops, and even grocery stores is easy with same-day delivery services. These services typically cost $5-15 per delivery, but sometimes there are coupons for free delivery.
If you can’t find delivery locally, you can always have it shipped to you via FedEx, UPS, or a local carrier. Here’s how to make it easier and cheaper.
Managing Delivery Costs
We go into great detail about the cost of shipping wine elsewhere, so this is just a summary.
Wine delivery is expensive, at least in part, because wine bottles are heavy and bulky. FedEx and UPS capitalize on delivery costs by figuring out if your packages are heavier or bulkier, and then charging your wine store for whichever one is more expensive. Nice, huh?
The most economical way to ship wine is in 12-bottle cases. Whether you’re buying a single shipment of wine from an online wine store or you’re joining a wine club, the economics of shipping are the same. For wine club deliveries, if you don’t drink 12-bottles a month, get them sent less often (we recommend quarterly wine clubs).
If your wine store or wine club offers free shipping, hooray! Not surprisingly, even if you’re not expressly paying for shipping, your wine store is. This means you’re possibly paying more per bottle in exchange for “free” shipping. Some stores would rather charge you a fair price for your wine and pass the shipping cost (either entirely or subsidized) onto you to avoid the appearance of overpricing their bottles.
Another shipping cost you can’t avoid? The Adult Signature Required fee. Again, some stores and wine clubs eat this fee as a cost of doing business, but others pass it along to you. It’s typically $3-5.
Three ways to save on shipping wine:
- Have it sent to your workplace (FedEx and UPS charge more to ship to a residence)
- Have it directed to an authorized pick-up location (FedEx and UPS charge more to ship to a residence)
- Join the Wine StewardShip program at Wine.com (it’s like Amazon Prime) and enjoy free shipping on all of your orders for 12 months for just $49 per year. You can buy it when you add wine to your cart.
Managing Delivery Costs
Nobody likes to wait around for package delivery, but since wine requires an Adult Signature things can get a little inconvenient. Fortunately, UPS and FedEx make managing your deliveries significantly less inconvenient.
FedEx Delivery Manager
If your wine store or wine club uses FedEx, you’ve got the best available options. First, they offer FedEx Delivery Manager. This is a free service available via their website and app.
With this service, FedEx notifies you of upcoming shipments and lets you either hold shipment until you’ll be around or redirect shipment to a local store. This program is called FedEx OnSite and the local stores include one of roughly 2,000 FedEx Office locations and a selection of other approved package pick-up locations like Walgreens, Duane Reade, Albertsons, Kroger, Fred Meyer, Jewel-Osco, Randalls, Shaws, Star Market, Vons, and Safeway. Holding shipments and redirecting shipments to stores is FREE with FedEx.
Some wine stores even have FedEx integrated so you choose one of the approved package pick-up locations when you order — no extra work required. We’ve seen this delivery option offered by WineInsiders, Martha Stewart Wine, and Wine.com. This is the maximum convenience you can get for wine delivery if you can’t get it delivered to your workplace.
Amusing Anecdote Part II. This is how I got around my shipping to Michigan problem. The wines I wanted were available to ship to Illinois where I’d be visiting before I headed to Michigan. We were staying at a vacation rental, so there wasn’t a destination I could send the wine. However Wine.com offers FedEx OnSite, so I was able to send the wine to a Walgreens a few blocks from where we were staying and pick it up there. I was in and out in 5 minutes. I did have to provide an Illinois address to justify shipping it to that Walgreens, but there was no verification of any kind at pickup.
The delivery manager service and app for UPS is called MyChoice. We’re less enamored with UPS’ implementation than FedEx, mostly because they charge us for services FedEx offers for free.
Wine shipments that are redirected must be sent to a UPS Distribution Warehouse if you don’t want to pay. These aren’t located everywhere and can be inconvenient (our closest one is 40 minutes away). If you want to reschedule a delivery or have a package redirected elsewhere, it costs $5 per package.