Being on the Moral High Ground

It will be common place this year: more consumers, wineries and retailers suing various states with the objective being to put sales on a level playing field.

In Delaware a consumer there, along with a Pennsylvania winery, is suing the state to allow out-of-state wineries to sell and ship wine directly to consumers, retailers and restaurateurs. Currently, Delaware wineries have such a privilege. It’s a clear case of discrimination that the May 2005 Supreme Court decision, "Granholm v. Heald" call unconstitutional.

What always interests me when I hear about new lawsuits of this type is how various parties in the offending state react to the idea of opening up their state to sales from out-of-state wineries. Here is some response to the lawsuit gathered by AP:

"Steve Torpey, owner of Stanley’s Tavern and a past chairman of the
Delaware Restaurant Association, said he would be more supportive if
the direct-to-consumer sales demand was eliminated, so that only
licensed restaurants and stores could deal directly with small wineries.

"My first reaction is, just as a person and a parent, selling
directly over the Internet, there is no
way to verify who you are
selling to," Torpey said. "That concept right there is ludicrous."

Minors don’t buy alcohol via the Internet. It’s far easier to get it from Mom and Dad’s stash or from retail establishments served by wholesalers.

"Anne Hood, sommelier at Harry’s Savoy Grill, said the lawsuit might
ultimately put liquor distributors in Delaware out of business, which
could make it more difficult for her to make wine purchases.
Distributors currently provide samples of wine from small wineries,
Hood said – allowing her to make informed decisions about what to buy.

At the same time, she said, the suit, would probably cause wine
prices to drop and expand the
wine selection in Delaware stores and

"I’d love to get some of the things I can’t get right now," Hood
said. "It is an interesting concept. I don’t know how that would shake

The interesting thing in how various parties react is how their response is directly related to their self interest. It’s easy to sit here in Glen Ellen, California, a wine PR guy, not a retailer or restaurateur, nor a wholesaler, and say "what about the principle of free and fair trade?…Shouldn’t that govern our response?" Then again, I guess my opposition to discriminatory laws that only benefit
wholesalers might also be based on self-interest. I’m interested in my winery clients being able to ship direct and sell more wine. Self interest may indeed animate my response. But it sure feels good to be on the moral high ground as well.

Posted In: Uncategorized


One Response

  1. Mark Finley - January 4, 2006

    I had mixed feelings about the Supreme Court decision as well. As a somewhat libertarian, I applauded it. As a California resident, it opened my state’s wineries to a higher demand resulting in probably increased prices. Oh well.

Leave a Reply