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 Supreme Court rules on wine shipping The long-awaited decision is in, but don't look for immediate change.
 Decanter The world's best wine magazine
 California Wine Club Forget the tie this year!
 This week on Good wine news from Chile, and the wine-touring poll continues.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Supreme Court rules on wine shipping

States in the U.S. may not ban the shipment of wine directly to consumers if the state's laws permit in-state wineries to do so, the Supreme Court ruled in a closely split decision announced this morning. In short, everyone may ship or nobody may ship, but it's unconstitutional to grant preference to in-state shippers.

But wine lovers who live in states that do not now permit consumers to buy wine directly from out of state sources should not count on being able to jump online and start ordering wine.

In a debate that saw two core Constitutional principles in conflict, the court's 5-4 decision saw interstate commerce barely edge federalism (states' rights).

Supporters of wine shipping were quick to declare the decision a great victory. The Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C. group that had represented one of the plaintiffs in the two cases before the court, said the decision had "huge implications for interstate and electronic commerce." Institute attorney Clint Bolick added, "This is the best day for wine-lovers since the invention of the corkscrew. ... This opens up interstate markets just like our Founding Fathers envisioned. They wanted us to be one nation when it comes to trade - not 50 states. This is a boon for America's wine-loving consumers who like to have various wines from throughout the nation."

More measured voices in the wine-loving community, however, noted that little is likely to change for many Americans, particularly in the short term. The opinion addresses only the 24 states whose current laws permit in-state wineries to ship wine to consumers while forbidding out-of-state producers to do so. But many states do not permit shipping wine to consumers at all, and the court's ruling does not change that.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote, "States have broad power to regulate liquor ... This power, however, does not allow states to ban, or severely limit, the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers. If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on evenhanded terms."

This language makes it as easy for states to ban all direct-to-consumer sales - as New Jersey, for instance, did just last year rather than permit interstate shipping to its residents. It's safe to assume that the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, the wealthy lobby group that represents distributors and that has led the battle against interstate shipping, will now turn its ample resources to fighting for overall shipping bans.

In addition to Justice Kennedy, Justices Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer voted with the majority. In dissent were Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas.

The decision focused only on wine shipping, but observers presume that its language clears the way for similar legislation governing beer and liquor shipment.

At the risk of saying "I told you so," I can't help but recall having written this analysis in the April 8 Wine Advisor: "Look for a ruling that states with laws like New York and Michigan must eliminate disparities between the laws governing shipping for in-state and out-of-state merchants ... a problem that those states could as easily resolve by denying all direct wine sales to consumers (as many states already do) as by permitting all such sales."

If legal language doesn't put you off, here's a link that bypasses media analysis and goes direct to primary sources: The Supreme Court's opinion on the shipping cases is already online here, in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format:

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on today's topic (or any other wine-related subject), you'll find a round-table online discussion in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Decanter Decanter
The world's best wine magazine

Since 1975 Decanter magazine has been the vital companion for wine lovers around the world. If you don't subscribe, this month you have missed:

Bordeaux 2004
 Full Bordeaux 2004 tasting notes with a comprehensive introduction by Steven Spurrier
 Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, St-Emilion and the right bank
 Top tasters Steven Spurrier, Serena Sutcliffe MW, James Lawther MW, and David Peppercorn MW give you the tasting notes of a 'classic' vintage

 Panel tastings: Chilean  Cabernet and Rioja Crianza & Reserva
 Portugal's world-class wines
 Whites for summer drinking
 Visiting St-Emilion
 The globetrotting Lurtons

US subscribers can enjoy 12 issues of Decanter delivered to their doorstep for just $49.99. Don't miss out again - subscribe today for great online savings.

PS Visit to receive all the latest wine news delivered to your inbox every morning for free.

California Wine Club
California Wine Club:
Forget the tie this year!

The California Wine Club is the ideal way to say "Happy Father's Day!" Featuring award-winning wines, hand-selected from California's best, boutique wineries.. This is a special gift that any Dad would love.

Each month your gift recipient will receive two bottles of extraordinary wine not found in local stores plus an entertaining 12-page magazine, Uncorked. Honor dad for more than just one day with a monthly membership from The California Wine Club for just $32.95 plus shipping. Take advantage of our Father's Day offer!

With a gift of six months or more we will include in his first shipment a bottle of wine from our upper-level club, The Signature Series. This month it is a fabulous Robert Rue Zinfandel. Just mention The 30 Second Wine Advisor and this offer when ordering. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Dave McIntyre's WineLine: Good News from Chile
There's good news from Chile these days, columnist Dave McIntyre reports in WineLine No. 53: The excellent 2003 vintage is about to hit our retail shelves. From the few examples he was able to taste on a recent visit to Chile, the 2004 vintage has broken El Niņo's spell.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: How do you prepare for a wine tour?
If there's a wine lover in your family, the chances are good that he (or maybe she) is thinking about a summer vacation plan that includes at least one or two winery visits. The current Wine Lovers' Voting Booth topic continues for another week, so if you haven't voted yet, we'd still like to pick your collective brains as we ask, "How do you prepare for a wine tour?"
To follow the tally, click

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Last week, however, we went on a vacation schedule because of my travels, skipping the usual Wednesday Wine Advisor and Thursday FoodLetter. Here's the index to last week's columns:

 About Minervois (May 13, 2004)

 Ptui! (May 11, 2004)

 Wine travel tips (May 9, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Bite-sized pepper steaks (May 12, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, May 16, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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