There are more than 7,700 wineries in the United States. Production is at record levels. Prices are skyrocketing, too: As of 2013, the average bottle cost $10.85, up from $9 the previous year.
And while the debate over which state produces the best wine will never end — Is it California, home to nearly half the wineries in the United States? Is it Oregon, with its pinot noirs, or Washington, with its cabernets? — there’s no better state to be a wine drinker, based on price, availability and lenient regulations, than New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is one of six states, plus the District, that scored an A+ on the American Wine Consumer Coalition’s 2013 report card for its liberal regulations. Consumers in those states can have wine shipped to their homes through the mail, bring their favorite bottles to restaurants, and buy wine in specialty shops or grocery stores.
What sets New Hampshire apart from the other top-performing states, however, is its tax regime. It’s the only one of those top-performing states that doesn’t levy a tax on wine. California levies an excise tax on wine at a relatively puny 20 cents per gallon, while D.C. piles $1.61 per gallon onto the list price.
New Hampshire is one of six states, along with Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming, where the government runs its own liquor stores. But unlike those other states, where government monopoly is a vestige of prohibition, New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores are more aggressive in their marketing. They even advertise near the state’s border with Massachusetts, luring customers north to buy booze.
As a result, Granite Staters down 19.6 liters of wine per capita each year, the highest consumption rate of any state and second only to the District. Californians, by contrast, consume 14 liters per capita.
On the other end of the spectrum, Southern and Midwestern states are relative wine deserts. West Virginians and Mississippians drink less than three liters per capita annually, while Kentucky residents have to shell out an additional $3.56 per gallon in excise taxes, the highest rate in the nation. (Kentucky’s regulations favor the local bourbon industry.)
Experts may argue over which state grows the best grapes, but there’s no debate for consumers: Your best place to live free and sip is New Hampshire.