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Monday, April 19, 2010

Congress Attempts to Destroy Artisan Wineries, Again

It is apparent that government, whether at the federal or state level, always intercede into the wine, beer, spirits marketplace to the detriment of consumers. Sometimes, they just want to to limit the number of producers by increasing regulation and\or the license process. Sometimes they want your money and increase consumption taxes. But most likely they desire to protect special interests, and in this case, the old boy network: wholesalers. This is definitely the case with H.R. 5034 just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Why is it lethal to small wineries and detrimental to consumers? It would, in practice, ban direct shipping of wine, creating a monopoly for wholesalers. Here's Tom Wark from Fermentation to explain:

"Notwithstanding that the State or territorial law may burden interstate commerce or may be inconsistent with an Act of the Congress, the State law shall be upheld unless the party challenging the State or territorial law establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the law has no effect on the promotion of temperance, the establishment or maintenance of orderly alcoholic beverage markets, the collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, the structure of the state alcoholic beverage distribution system, or the restriction of access to alcoholic beverages by those under the legal drinking age.’’

"This language means that any state may pass a law that discriminates against out-of-state wine shippers and that the law cannot be challenged in court and therefore invalidated—just as the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision invalidated laws in New York and Michigan that discriminated.

The Granholm Court reasoned that because the states' goals of temperance, an orderly market and tax collection could have been achieved without burdening interstate commerce and discriminating against out-of-state interests, those discriminatory wine shipping laws were unconstitutional violations of the Constitution's Commerce Clause."

WineSpectator.com also has a comprehensive review of the bill and the Wine Harlots are also providing licks to Congress so that you can express your displeasure. This should be an appropriate topic for this weekend's DrinkLocalWine conference.

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