I wish I could claim to have thought up the creative title of this post. But actually it’s the name of an activist website called Free the Grapes.
It refers to the movement gaining popular support from just about everyone (except wine wholesalers and state bureaucrats) to dump the outdated laws in the United States restricting the interstate shipping of wine.
Last Sunday, December 5, was the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. (For our non-U.S. readers: Prohibition refers to the Constitutional Amendment that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933.)
One of the remaining vestiges of Prohibition are laws in 24 states prohibiting interstate shipment of wine.
Yes, you are reading that right. In nearly half the states in the U.S., you cannot buy wine in another state and have it shipped directly to you.
This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether to declare the 24 states’ laws unconstitutional, on the grounds that they interfere with interstate commerce. The court’s decision is expected in June.
Professor Bainbridge has criticized the laws in a Tech Central Station article, stating, “The justifications advanced in defense of these laws are, put bluntly, ludicrous. *** It’s plain and simple protectionism. Michigan, New York, and 22 other states are discriminating against their own consumers so as to protect entrenched local interests.”
Eliminating the laws would help many small businesses, according to the SBSC. It would help the nation’s 2,000 small wineries which would benefit from direct sales over the Internet.
And if this site is any indication (check out the membership directory), myriads of small local restaurants, beverage drive-throughs and other wine retailers think overturning the laws would help them. Without the laws, they would have wider wine choices with more price competition, leading ultimately to lower wine prices.
Not to mention the move would be very popular with consumers.
Free the grapes.