Vintners celebrate court ruling

Supereme Court ruling could open up interstate wine sales

May 17, 2005 - The Supreme Court handed a major victory to wine producers and consumers, striking down as unconstitutional state laws that had blocked out-of-state wineries - but not in-state ones - from shipping directly to residents.


The court said that laws in Michigan and New York were unconstitutional because they were designed to give in-state wineries "a competitive advantage over wineries located beyond the state's borders."

While the ruling does not mention beer, both producers and consumers expect that this will make selling beer through the mail easier.

Wine industry members called the ruling as a victory for family wineries and consumers that will help smaller vineyards survive economically by opening new markets to them.

"Wine lovers around the country should raise their glasses of their favorite wines to toast today's Supreme Court victory," said Tracy Genesen, an attorney with Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis who also is the legal director of the Coalition for Free Trade, a wine industry advocacy group. "Consumers will have greater choice, lower prices and increased convenience in selecting and buying their favorite wines."

Those who opposed broader direct shipping of wine, such as liquor wholesalers, distributors and anti-alcohol groups, said the battle is not over. They said they would encourage states that allowed direct shipments from in-state wineries but not from out-of-state wineries to simply ban all such sales.

Beyond Michigan and New York, the decision will directly affect laws in six other states that allowed direct shipments from in-state wineries, but prohibited such transactions from those located out of the state. It also calls into question laws in at least 27 other states that had allowed some form of direct shipments. Of those, the states most likely to be affected are the 13 that offer reciprocal privileges - allowing direct shipment only from other states that also permit it.