You Can Buy Wine Online—As Long As You Can Be There in Person

In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned restrictions on wine sales that discriminated against out-of-state vintners. Since then (and before then too), liquor wholesalers have sought to protect their government-granted privileges by portraying direct shipment of boutique wines as the average teenager's favorite way to catch a buzz. In Indiana, for instance, preventing underage alcohol purchases is the rationale for a requirement that any consumer seeking to have wine delivered directly to his home must first have a "face-to-face meeting" with the producer, which is not exactly convenient if you live in Indianapolis and your favorite winery is in California or Oregon. Several Indiana consumers challenged this rule, arguing that it puts out-of-state wineries at a disadvantage.

In a decision (PDF) issued a couple of weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit disagreed. Although visiting one California winery might be more difficult for a Hoosier than visiting one Indiana winery, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote, "Many oenophiles vacation in wine country, and on a tour through Napa Valley to sample the vintners' wares a person could sign up for direct shipments from dozens of wineries." By contrast, "Wine tourism in Indiana is less common, and the state's vineyards—which altogether have fewer than 350 acres under cultivation—are scattered around the state, making it hard for anyone to sign up at more than a few of Indiana's wineries."

Easterbrook likewise was not impressed by the argument that requiring an adult's signature upon delivery and/or online verification of age would be at least as effective at preventing sales to teenagers as requiring face-to-face contact between buyer and seller. Nor does it matter, he said, that teenagers have plenty of other ways to obtain alcohol that do not involve paying premium wine prices and waiting a week or two for delivery. "It is important to remember that we are dealing with effects on the margin," he wrote. "Make it easier for minors to get wine by phone or Internet, and sales to minors will increase."

Although the court left the face-to-face requirement intact, it did overturn a rule barring any winery that sells directly to retailers in other states (thereby acting as "its own wholesaler") from shipping wine to consumers in Indiana. "The statute is neutral in terms," Easterbrook noted, "but in effect it forbids interstate shipments direct to Indiana's consumers, while allowing intrastate shipments."

In short, Indiana oenophiles who find the selection offered by local retailers inadequate may now enjoy the convenience of having any wine they like shipped directly to their homes, as long as they're willing to travel across the country for the privilege.

[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the tip.]

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  • Naga Sadow||

    Bah!!! Let them drink beer!

  • ||

    I don't can any wine online, let alone butt wine.

  • ||

    As a practical matter, how are the authorities keeping track of whether you've met the producer face-to-face? That would seem to be an enforcement problem.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Occam's toothbrush,

    Christ! I got an instant migraine and my eye's began to bleed just from a cursory glance at your comment. Be more careful in the future before you cause someone to become illiterate just from reading your comments!

  • Elemenope||

    Well, hell, at least this is a case of "interstate commerce". You know, *actual* interstate commerce.

    It's not every day the Congress gets to make a law that's constitutional.

  • ||

    You want an encore? Here you go, bleed, baby, bleed...

    As a practical matter, how are the authorities keeping track of whether you've met the producer face-to-face? That would seem to be an enforcement problem.

  • CJ08||

    In vino veritas - this is why the government wants to legislate it.

  • ||

    LMNOP,

    This is an Indiana law, not one made by Congress. That's sort of the issue.

    Though it does make one wonder how growing marijuana can be forbidden by state law if it's a matter of interstate commerce, which Congress is supposed to have exclusive power over.

  • Ironic||

    Does this same rule apply to marijauna?

  • ||

    And this is the state Obama may choose his VP from (Bayh) to win?

    How can anybody NOT be a peaceful anarchist?

  • Ironic||

    Occam beet me to it . .

  • brigand||

    Some of us don't want to be peaceful, David.

  • CJ08||

    My favorite wine comes from Pelle Island in Canda - I love their ice wine.

  • SIV||

    You can thank the 18th, and more particularly the 21 amendments to the Constitution for the bizarre alchohol laws in many states.

    Relevant passage:
    Section 2

    The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.


    That is why the States can grant monopolist "distribution" rights to privately held companies (Why Cindy McCain is so damn rich).

  • Kolohe||

    Except, as the first link says, the supreme court has held that the 21st ammendment is not carte blanche to violate the commerce clause (prior to the case, it was argued in several venues and held by a few that the 21st granted states plenary authority over the demon rum).

  • Naga Sadow||

    Occam's toothbrush,

    I meant your first comment but you already knew them.

    Also, David G., no overt law and order and I'm set on becoming a warlord, out for pillage and plunder.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Dammit! Your comment is still messing with my mind! You already knew that! THAT! Not them.

  • SIV||

    Off topic:

    McCain is now the front runner according to this poll aggregation anyways.

  • Elemenope||

    This is an Indiana law, not one made by Congress. That's sort of the issue.

    Well, shit. And there I was getting all excited about it.

  • ||

    God forbid that common sense would invade the courtroom.

    I was going to make a crack about Indiana, but this could've happened in any state, even if Indiana is a oozing boil on the United States' ass.

  • ||

    Indiana makes Oklahoma look positively libertarian!

  • ||

    If I was an enterprising liquor store owner in Indiana, I would offer to check IDs in state and provide verification for wineries outside the state, for a flat rate and percentage of sales. But that's just me.

  • JB ||

    How stupid.

    Abortion...it's for the children.

  • Paul||

    Another victory against the WoD?

  • alan||

    In short, Indiana oenophiles who find the selection offered by local retailers inadequate may now enjoy the convenience of having any wine they like shipped directly to their homes, as long as they're willing to travel across the country for the privilege.

    Ever single day in America, jurist are capable of crossing streets without getting plowed by cars, or tripping up on sidewalks, they are able to drive to the court buildings without getting involved in smash ups or getting lost on the way there, they can even chew food without choking, hold cups without spilling, breath in and out at a regular pace without drawing too much or too little air that in either case would induce fainting, yet once pen is in hand and ass is planted firmly in the chair they come up with convoluted, illogical horse shit like this that could not have possibly been processed by the same gray matter that successfully performed those other daily activities.

  • ||

    It is important to remember that we are dealing with effects on the margin," he wrote. "Make it easier for minors to get wine by phone or Internet, and sales to minors will increase."

    Its hard to remember/believe that, for a lot of people "Its for the children" isn't said in a spirit of mockery and derision, but in utmost seriousness, as a deal-closer.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Based on this estimate of the changes after the 2010 Census, it looks like Republicans will have a serious advantage in 2012, unless Texas turns into a swing state.

  • ||

    What to you want to bet that Judge Easterbrook had an older sibling that used to purchase booze for him and his buddies?
    "At the margin", my ass. Any dorks that will go through the motions to purchase wine on line are not the kind of roaring drunk frat boys that will be cruising our highways looking to create an accident.

  • Elemenope||

    creech, in my experience it is never wise to underestimate the craftiness of roaring drunk frat boys.

    Isn't a good reason for this legislation, but still...

  • ||

    as long as the evil irsays roam the football fields of indianapolis, people of indiana do not deserve wine from anywhere other than their home state.

    we here in napa can sell all we want without worrying about those inbred cretins.

  • ||

    sorry, that should have read "inbred six-toed cretins."

  • Warty||

    Occam's toothbrush | August 19, 2008, 8:23pm | #
    I don't can any wine online, let alone butt wine.



    I am a highly skilled microphone cleaner, my masters, and what I most can't the least is to do not a bad job, but always a good.

  • Warty||

    As long as the Irsays make Baltimore sad, they're good people in my book. Cry, cry, cry, you Modell-fellating assholes.

  • ||

    What to you want to bet that Judge Easterbrook had an older sibling that used to purchase booze for him and his buddies?



    Yeah, this guy probably bought him a boatload of booze back in the day.

  • ||

    "If I was an enterprising liquor store owner in Indiana, I would offer to check IDs in state and provide verification for wineries outside the state, for a flat rate and percentage of sales. But that's just me."

    I was just going to suggest that. Or, if Indiana oenophiles want to, say, contact a person such as myself to set up introductions with California wineries to arrange such shipments, all from the comfort of their own homes (we can teleconference), I would be more than willing to make such arrangements, for a small fee that would cover my travel costs, of course.

    \\Angling for free vacation.

  • ||

    The liqueur store enabled ID verification sounds like a good plan.

    Of course, the good citizens of Indiana can expect many more wine tasting events scheduled in their state. The people won't so much be traveling to the wineries as the wineries will travel to the people. The additional cost of this will be born by all.

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    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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