Monday, September 17, 2007

The Wine Spectator on Indiana's Wine Shipping Law

Thanks to the Indiana Law Blog for pointing me to the Wine Spectator's article Indiana and Oregon Change Laws on Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipments. The article has this to say about the future prospects for Indiana's law:

Because the judge focused on those two particular elements of Indiana's law, the state's existing direct-shipping rules remain intact. So long as the wineries are willing to ship and the courier services such as FedEx and UPS are willing to deliver, direct wine shipments to Indiana residents can commence. Unfortunately, however, Indiana consumers can't count their chickens just yet. Since the law is written to limit individual households to 24 cases per year rather than the wineries themselves, the wineries have no way of knowing if they'll be sending, say, the 25th case to a particular Indiana resident, and therefore violating the law. It's a risk some wineries are willing to take—but not all of them.

"Right now we are not shipping but are informing our Indiana wine lovers that we need their help to fix poor legislation," said Dennis Cakebread, director of marketing for Cakebread Cellars in Napa, Calif.

Despite that remaining barrier in Indiana, the state's wine wholesalers are unhappy with the decision. "We think the judge erred," said Jim Purucker, executive director of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana. "We think the legislature has the right to regulate alcohol under the 21st Amendment, and it's unfortunate that the legislature tried to do their best to … treat everybody equally, but I guess that didn't satisfy the judge. There are other places around the country where the face-to-face provision has been upheld. We would hope that on appeal his decision would be overturned."

Whether such an appeal will be filed, however, remains to be seen. "We're evaluating what we're going to do. A determination hasn't been made yet," Purucker said. Part of the reason may be, as Tanford pointed out, that if the state does not appeal a decision in which it was involved, a private third party, the wholesalers' association in this case, usually lacks the grounds to do so.

They’ll also face formidable opposition. In the months leading up the court decision, a group of Indiana consumers, led by Indiana resident Allen Dale Olson, formed an advocacy group called VinSense to fight the state's shipping laws. The only other state to see a group of consumers unite in protest of its direct-shipping laws was Michigan, one of the two states at the center of the 2005 Supreme Court decision.

VinSense has a website here. Do check it out.