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Ronald C. Smith, Fargo, Published December 28 2013

Letter: ND wine rule not rational

The Forum’s SheSays section on Dec. 22 had a very nice article on wine books for both the casual wine aficionado and the more devoted to this wonderfully collaborative creation between Mother Nature and the genius of the human mind.

As a retired professor from North Dakota State University with emeritus status, I enjoy teaching a course on the “Evolution and History of Wine in America” to students who meet the criteria of being 21 or older. I cover a wide range of subjects: wine making, wine tasting, Thomas Jefferson’s life around his love of wine, especially those from France, but also for his love of a genuine American original grape – Scuppernong – from the Southeastern states.

I have in past semesters been able to order this unique wine from a winery in the Carolinas for sampling to my students – that is, until last fall semester. Suddenly, FedEX can no longer deliver alcohol to North Dakota residents due to a “compliancy” problem – which I find translates into no out-of-state shipments into North Dakota.

In my course, I emphasize the stupidity of the Prohibition in America that ran for 13 years; stupidity because it solved nothing; bootlegging ran rampant, moonshining, illegal smuggling schemes, loss of tax revenue, and contributing to the economic depression America was falling into.

I suspect the reasoning behind North Dakota’s ban on further wine shipments has to do with the inability to effectively collect taxes on the out-of-state sales, and to encourage residents to purchase and drink North Dakota-produced wine.

This move is without rational basis; anyone who enjoys wine doesn’t want a limitation on where to purchase it. The beauty of wine production and consumption is that it isn’t “McDonaldized” – a varietial produced in one region tastes different than the same variety produced in another region – allowing the consumer to make a choice.

For example, the Chardonnay in California’s Napa Valley may be preferred to the Chardonnay from New York wine regions. Will such a “compliancy” regulation prevent the entry of out-of-state wine into North Dakota? Of course not; the wine is simply sent to Minnesota or other border state address and picked up there.

I respectfully call on North Dakota lawmakers to rethink this decision, and ask if this “prohibition of choice” for wine purchases will solve whatever the perceived problem is.


Smith, professor emeritus with the NDSU Plant Science Department, was horticulturalist with the NDSU Extension Service.

He retired in 2012.