Happy Anniversary

Today is the second anniversary of the 2005 Granholm V. Heald Supreme Court decision that informed us that a state may not grant in-state wine sellers the right to sell to it’s residents but exclude out-of-state sellers from doing so. It violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Over at Appellation America Ray and Eleanor Heald (yes, the same as those the decision is named after) have a interesting article on the state of direct shipping two years out.

Legal decisions are important. They point the way toward paths that are allowable…where trouble will not be encountered. However, they tend to direct us toward the LEAST that must be done to stay on the path. I’m concerned with what SHOULD and COULD be done to widen the path that wine sellers and wine consumers follow.

It is a fact that nearly every state law that concern itself with who may sell what is a law that is in place for the specific benefit of a particular kind of commercial actor. What’s interesting is that that commercial actor that benefits from the various laws is almost never the consumer.

Consider the various laws that are in place or have been attempted to be put in place in different states:

-Only the state’s wines may be sold in state owned stores
-Only certain amounts of wine may be brought into a state
-Only wineries of a certain size may sell directly to a state’s consumers
-Only after visiting a winery in person may you order wine from them
-No wines may be shipped into a state from another
-Only in-state wineries may ship wine to that state’s residents
-Only in-state retailers may ship to that state’s residents
-Only 1 case a month my be shipped to a resident of a state
-Only distributors may sell wine to a retailer or restaurant

This is a list created literally by thinking about the question less than a minute. And it includes the time necessary to type it out.

What would widen the path? What kind of alcohol related policy would benefit consumers most? It’s simple:

1. Allow consumers to buy wine from whomever they want
2. Allow wineries and retailers to sell to whomever they want
3. Force distributors to rise or fall without the benefit of a monopoly.

The problem with these three principles is that they would create a level playing field, real competition, better access to products for consumers, and better prices for consumers.

In the large scheme of things this issue of the consumer and wine and the principles that ought to apply really pales next to issues of war and peace, wealth and poverty, God and man. However, I’m not in the war, wealth or God business. Just the wine business.


One Response

  1. zinman - May 16, 2007

    Tom, your constant whining about wholesalers makes your blog virtually unreadable.
    Wholesalers have plenty of faults and you should point out each of them.
    You never, on the other hand, address the fact that wineries big and small are complicit in the existence of the three tier system, primarily because distributors buy huge quantities of unneeded inventory so that wineries can present a false picture of financial health to their owners, whether public or private.
    You have an ax to grind and that’s ok, but you can’t present part of the story as the whole truth. At least you shouldn’t.
    You must know the whole story, so tell it.
    Your readers are smart enough to get it.

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