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Bill would expand kosher wine access

Maryland Jews who keep kosher will be able to purchase kosher wine from online and international retailers and have the wine shipped directly to their doorsteps if a House bill is passed.

There are 76 delegates sponsoring the bill, including Del. Sam Arora, D-Montgomery.

“I hope this year we can pass a reasonable religious accommodation that allows Marylanders of the Jewish faith to live out their faith more easily,” he said.

Two years ago, Maryland legalized the direct shipment of wine to homes from domestic wineries. Prior to that, wine shipment to Maryland was not allowed under any circumstance.

However, the 2011 bill still created a problem because most kosher wine is produced internationally, in countries such as Israel, France and Argentina.

Kosher wine isn’t always readily available in liquor stores in Maryland, and higher-end kosher wine is harder to locate. It is also a crime to carry more than one gallon of wine across the state border.

“Usually you’re lucky if you can find one or two brands of kosher wine,” Arora said. “Typically it’s very low-end, so if you want to bring a nice wine over to a Sabbath meal, it can be challenging.”

There are 16 brands of kosher wine made in the United States, out of about 6,700 wineries in the country, said Karen Barall, the community relations director for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Kosher wine is often consumed on Fridays and Saturdays for Shabbat, and Jewish holidays. During Passover, it is a Jewish ritual to drink four glasses of wine during the Seder.

Purchasing kosher wine online on websites like kosherwine.com would allow consumers to have more control over price rather than depending on what retail stores charge, Barall said.

The bill faces opposition from retailers who are concerned they will lose revenue if international kosher wine shipment is made legal, but Barall remains hopeful.

“(The bill) will change the Maryland Jewish community,” Barall said.

The House Economic Matters Committee will hear the bill, HB 590, at 1 p.m., Feb. 25.

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