Jewish World Review Dec. 30, 2002 / 25 Teves, 5763

Dan Abrams

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Consumer Reports

It's the holidays, let me order my wine! | I have a little wine collection, so this irks me to no end. If I want to legally buy a hard-to-find California wine directly from the winery, I have to either ship it to a friend in one of a handful of states and then pick it up, or go to California myself.

But if I want to buy a wine from a New York State winery, for example, then it's no problem. I can just give them a call. Wholesalers and other middlemen have been furiously fighting to keep the current laws in place. In the vast majority of states, I should add. In those states, the wineries have to sell to wholesalers, who then sell to retailers, who then sell to the consumers.

We can't even legally send wine to friends as a gift. It's a nice racket, but their justification makes no sense. The wholesalers claim that they're helping to regulate alcohol sales, to make sure minors or dry counties don't end up with the moonshine. And the states claim that the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows them to regulate alcohol.

So, retailers and instate wineries can mail the wine? If someone's goal is just to get drunk on fine wine, this does nothing to prevent that. Finally, federal judges in New York, Virginia, North Carolina have stepped in and called it unconstitutional. A violation of the commerce clause that prevents states from favoring their own interest over that of other states, and that, of course, is what this is.

And regardless of its constitutional status, this is just an outdated system. It's the holidays. Let me order my wine.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 6-7 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.


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