Greener BeeGreen HolidaysAlmost heaven, wine at last comes to grocery shelves

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As of July 1, you can buy wine in grocery stores
Samuel M. Simpkins

No sooner had the clock struck eight Friday morning than grocery store clerks across the state started sliding bottles of wine across scanners, accepting payment in turn.

Not since 1967, when the vote for liquor-by-the-drink finally passed in Nashville, have the steeple-borne blue laws bent to economics and consumer boosterism.

For many wine drinkers, especially those who have moved here from one of the 37 other states with more relaxed liquor laws, that simple transaction was a long time coming. It took years of legislative arm twisting, hand wringing and, finally, lobbyist back patting to bring what state Alcoholic Beverage Commissioner Mary McDaniel calls “a dramatic change in the law.”

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who bought three bottles Friday morning at a Rutherford County Publix, spent seven years working on this iteration of wine sales legislation and then waited two more years before the law could take effect. He wanted to be one of the the first in the Central time zone to enjoy this new privilege and even signed bottles for others looking to commemorate the moment.

“I thought it would never be here, but it’s here,” Ketron said. “I’m so pleased to be able to buy the first bottle.”

At Trader Joe’s in Green Hills, a large crowd arrived drunk with excitement.

“It was a fabulous morning and a great turnout,” said Trader Joe’s “Captain” John Uebbing. “It exceeded our expectations.”

More on Tennessee liquor laws

Eager wine shoppers queued up outside Trader Joe’s before the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. By 8 a.m., the official vine time for sales, every register was backed up with shoppers.

Many of the carts were groaning with cases of the ultra-cheap, value brand Charles Shaw wines, affectionately known as “Two Buck Chuck” for their sub-$2 price tag in other parts of the country.

Anticipating the unusually strong brand loyalty seen at other store openings, Trader Joe’s hired a Charles Shaw impersonator. (The name comes from a shuttered wine label that was later purchased by Bronco Wine Company, one of the largest contract producers in California.) For Nashvillians, the varietals should earn a name closer to “Four Buck Chuck” after taxes.

Inside the Melrose Kroger on Eighth Avenue S., Claudine Lemaire was amused by all the fanfare. A native of Louisiana, where drive-through daiquiri marts are as common as humid days, Lemaire feels that sales are still over-restrictive, especially on Sundays and holidays. “I guess it takes more planning than I like to put into it,” she laughed.

Ketron said he might tilt at that windmill, indicating he’s interested in modifying his law to allow wine sales on Sunday.

“We’ll see if the people of Tennessee want it,” Ketron said. “If they are willing to petition for it, then we’ll bring that piece of legislation.”

In the meantime, liquor stores are braced for the change and focusing now on offering better and more informed customer service experiences.


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