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    Maine Retailers Looking to Amend New Wine Tasting Law

    New law meant to give retailers greater flexibility to conduct tastings at stores has opposite effect.

    By Hank Behar

    NEW YORK -- This year the Maine legislature amended a 22-year-old law allowing retailers, including grocery stores, to conduct wine tastings. The law, which went into effect Sept. 12, allows retailers to conduct tastings more than once month to take advantage of holiday seasons. It also expands the tastings to include beer and spirits in addition to wine. The total tastings, however, was kept to a maximum of 12 per year.

    However, it also included the following sentence: "Taste-testing activities must be conducted in a manner that precludes the possibility of observation by children."

    As a result, tastings ground to an almost complete halt at places where children might be in tow, such as grocery stores and supermarkets. In Maine, groceries can sell wine, beer and spirits.

    "What was a grocery store supposed to do?" asked Shelly Doak, executive director of the Maine Grocers Association (MGA). "Put up black draperies around the tasting area? Ask shoppers to blindfold their children? That part of the law really should be amended."

    This appears to be the next step. Lawmakers, facing backlash from their constituents, indicated their intention to amend that section of the law in January.

    Unfortunately, tastings that coincide with the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays, when spirits and spirit sales are normally high, may be few and far between.

    By Hank Behar
    • About Hank Behar

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