We’ve discussed stupid Illinois wine shipping laws previously, but the problem is occurring in more states as well.
A handful of states in recent years have enacted laws that, while permitting direct shipments, include requirements that bar or discourage many out-of-state wineries from participating.
Besides Massachusetts, Arizona, Kentucky and Ohio have all passed laws that ban direct shipments from larger wineries, which disadvantages many vintners in big wine-producing states, such as California. Kansas and Indiana require residents ordering out-of-state wine to first visit that vineyard and show identification proving they’re of legal drinking age; Kansas requires consumers to make the journey each time they order from the same vintner.
Critics say these laws fly in the face of a landmark 2005 Supreme Court ruling that struck down as discriminatory state laws that permit in-state wineries to ship to local consumers while denying the same right to out-of-state wineries. At the time, 26 states allowed some form of direct shipping from outside their borders. These were exceptions to the nation’s so-called three-tier system, a patchwork of state laws that usually require alcohol producers to funnel their wares through distributors to reach a store or bar. Legislators created the system in the wake of Prohibition, partly to discourage overconsumption.
And the reason for the ban:
Advocacy groups for wineries say local wine and liquor distributors have pressured state lawmakers into drafting laws that protect distributors, who fear a loss of revenue from direct shipping. “What the wholesalers really want is to preserve as much as they can their monopoly pricing power, which is considerable,” says Bill Nelson, president of WineAmerica, a trade group for wineries.