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Illinois wineries push for allowing more production and self-distribution

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(The Center Square) – Wineries around Illinois are pushing for a bill in Springfield that would allow them to expand their operations.

Under Illinois law, which is nearly 90 years old, the maximum amount of wine wineries can produce is 25,000 gallons, and they can only distribute 5,000 gallons.

Jeremy Wombles with the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance said while Illinois is one of the top wine-drinking states in the country and the state’s wine industry has grown in esteem, current law places restrictions on production and sales for wineries compared to the beer and spirits sectors.

“What we are looking at doing is creating a new tier of license that would allow us to be a wine maker or manufacturer that produces up to 250,000 gallons of wine,” said Wombles.

House Bill 2864 would also allow wineries to self-distribute up to 25,000 gallons of wine.

The IGGVA points out that spirits and beer industries are allowed to produce and self-distribute significantly more under the law. The limits for spirits is 50,000 gallons of production and 5,000 gallons to self-distribute, and for beer, it is 930,000 gallons of production and 232,500 gallons to self-distribute.

“Because we exhausted our capacity for self-distribution under the current law, we have tried to utilize distributors to reach retailers, but our experience has been fraught with difficulties, including not getting paid by distributors,” said Mark Wenzel, owner of August Hill Winery in Utica.

The IGGVA said an economic impact study conducted in 2022 underscores the substantial contributions of the Illinois wine industry. Specifically, the Illinois wine industry (excluding tourism) manufactured 1.1 million gallons of wine, contributed $775 million in federal, state and local taxes and provided employment for more than 60,000 full-time positions in the wine and tourism sectors, welcoming tourists to inject more than $374 million into the state’s economy.

“For Illinois wineries, the path forward to growing our small businesses is to expand our ability to produce more wine and sell more wine ourselves,” said Jim Ewers of Blue Sky Vineyard in Makanda. “Passing HB2864 would not only level the playing field for local wineries but also ensure fairer distribution practices that benefit both producers and consumers.”

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