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US direct shipping shake-out

Published:  23 July, 2008

In the wake of the US Supreme Court's decision on direct sales between wine producers and consumers (see Harpers, 20 May), the focus of activity has shifted to individual state legislatures.

The high court outlawed statutes in eight states that prevent out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to consumers in those states, while simultaneously permitting direct sales from in-state wineries.

As a consequence, New York lawmakers began opening the door to all direct shipping during assembly discussions on 8 June. However, other states may soon comply with the court's decision through an absolute restriction - prohibiting direct shipping from all wineries, including producers within those states who now rely on this sales channel.

Legal experts are advising wineries to prepare distribution plans both for the opening of new markets like New York and the possibility that they will lose direct access in others.

One California-based trade analyst said, The direct shipping fight is far from over, so nothing is going to happen very quickly.'