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Wine Spectator: Could The Supreme Court Strike Down Bans On Wine Retailer Direct Shipping?

October 1, 2018

While the nation’s eyes were focused on Senate hearings on a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court late last week, a few blocks away, the eight current justices were deciding to hear a case that could potentially change how consumers buy wine. The Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case of Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd during its next session. The justices will decide whether the 21st Amendment allows states to have a residency requirement for alcohol retailers and wholesalers, preventing out-of-state retailers and wholesalers from obtaining a license if the owner or company has not been a resident for a certain amount of time.

But while the residency requirement is the crux of this case, some believe the court could also decide whether state bans on shipping by out-of-state retailers are unconstitutional. That has wineries, retailers and wholesalers around the country paying close attention.

It has been 13 years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Granholm v. Heald, which ruled that, because of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, states could not allow in-state wineries to ship wine directly to consumers while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing the same. The landmark decision made it easier for wine lovers to access their desired labels and for wineries to expand their business.

But restrictions against out-of-state retailers went untouched. Bitter fights in courts and legislatures have ensued, with retailers arguing they should have the same protections as wineries under the Commerce Clause. Retailer direct-shipping advocates have been hoping that a case similar to Granholm, but with a retailer plaintiff, would make it up to the highest court. Wine Spectator has more on the potential implications of the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd case.—Emma Balter

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