Wine Tips: Supreme Port

Staff Writer
Wine shipping laws may be headed back to court.
Wine Tips: Supreme Port

If you're upset that the new Congress hasn't done much since being sworn in, look at the bright side: Last year they never voted on HR 5034, the bill that would have likely ended the business of online wine sales. And it's a safe bet that with other concerns occupying Congress' time right now, the bill might not see debate or a vote this session, either.

But the direct-shipping battle could be headed for another Supreme Court showdown. Back in 2005, the court made a landmark ruling (Granholm v. Heald) involving consumers who wanted to buy bottles directly from wineries across state lines. Ever since, however, it's been debated up and down the courts as to whether this ruling also applied to retailers, such as Wine Library, Zachy's and all those flash sites we know and love.

Two retailers, K&L Wine Merchants and have filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to clarify the 2005 ruling — whether it applied to retailers or not. Two wholesalers, Glazer's and Republic, are asking the court not to hear the case, arguing that the issue needs more debate in lower courts. (If you feel like reading legal documents, the petitions are here, here and here).

In the next few weeks, the Supreme Court will decide if it wants to take on wine-shipping laws again. You never know, it might; the argument hinges on the Constitution's Commerce Clause, the very same bit of language that could support or sink Obamacare.

What's your take? Should wineries and retailers be treated the same when it comes to direct-to-consumer sales and shipping? Share your opinion below.