NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some State Laws Prohibit Wine Shipments

December 10, 1998

Thirty-five states limit interstate wine shipments in one way or another. Although the Constitution prohibits states from erecting trade barriers against one another, the 21st Amendment -- which repealed Prohibition -- let states decide how alcohol is sold and marketed.

The result has been a patchwork of laws that critics say benefit no one but alcohol retailers and distributors -- by putting roadblocks between consumers and vintners.

  • Some states completely ban wine deliveries to consumers, while others will let out-of-state wineries ship directly to homes or offices -- but only if the customer purchases a liquor license.
  • Shipping wine across state lines is a felony in Florida, Georgia and Kentucky.
  • The penalties range from fines to jail time.
  • Out-of-state, direct-to-consumer wine sales probably amount to less than 2 percent of the $16 billion in wine sold in the U.S. last year.

The limits cut sales at as many as 1,700 wineries -- most of them too small to link into national distribution networks. Usually they are family businesses that sell fewer than 10,000 cases a year.

Wineries that do a substantial business in direct shipping are estimated to forgo as much as $10,000 a month in direct sales.

Source: Editorial, "Grapes of Protectionist Wrath," Investor's Business Daily, December 10, 1998.


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