Swirls: buying wine from Pennsylvania’s vending machines – did we mention the breathalyzer?

I don’t know about you, but I cringed when I recently read about Pennsylvania’s experimental sale of wine in vending machines in supermarkets. Yes, the machines do expand the sale of wine beyond Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores. You present your driver’s license or other state-issued ID card and pay by credit or debit card, including a $1 fee to the company that prpa liquorovides the machines, but then there is this: you also have to  pass a  breathalyzer test, which will be analyzed by a state employee  who will ultimately approve your sale if everything checks out – or not. The whole thing is monitored by a video link. This is all about control, control, and more control. I think about the ease of buying wine in supermarkets in California, Washington, Vermont, Virginia or any number of states, and I wonder what it is about Pennsylvania and its citizens, in the view of the state, that makes such drastic control measures necessary.

Forgive the rant here, but it’s hard for me to imagine most people suffering through the humility of blowing into a breathalyzer in view of others in such a communal setting as a grocery store. We’ll see how far the experiment goes, but I, for one, am not optimistic about this latest twist on Big Brother in the wine business. Aside from the control aspect, the idea does nothing to educate consumers about wine. There is no day-to-day substitute, I have found over many years of learning about and enjoying wine, for a knowledgeable and trustworthy sales person to guide you through the process of buying just the right bottle.  On that score, a vending machine just doesn’t cut it. For more details, you can read USA Today’s account of Pennsylvania’s vending machine venture.



  1. I don't see why wine bloggers are so opposed to this. Any expansion of wines sales in PA seems like a good thing to me. Maybe it's not perfect, but isn't it better than not having wine in grocery stores at all, as is the case now?

  2. I'm sorry, "Anonymous", but I do not see how these vending machines are going to increase sales of wine. You must work for the PA liquor board or are a representative of the vending machine company.

    The irony of the state of Pennsylvania (state where the Declaration of Independence was signed) launching this vending machine program is not lost on me.

    Where are your breathalyzer tests for purchasing beer or spirits?

    Bloggers are interested in this topic because wine is singled out.

    What a joke. Wine loving Pennsylvanian's should be picketing these grocery stores.

  3. It is not a joke, the two kiosks sold $16,000 worth of wine the first week. I think it is as riduculous as you think. It looks like they will expand adding another 98 kiosks.
    Mark in PA

  4. Breathalyzer help to stop the over drinking.It reduce the accident rate.It is best and easy idea.

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