Virginia OKs Interstate DTC Wine Sales

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Virginia Gov. Mark Warner signed a bill allowing direct-to-consumer wine shipments from out-of-state wineries.


The new law takes effect July 1 with two provisions: Out-of-state wineries must buy a $50 license and may ship up to two cases per month per consumer. These provisions are consistent with the wine industry's "model direct shipping" bill, which has formed the basis for successful laws in several states.


The bill, signed last week, also lets Virginia's growing wine industry expand. Currently, Virginia wineries legally can ship to consumers in nine states. This law expands that number to 22.


"This is a huge victory for Virginia's consumers and wineries," said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes!, a consumer grassroots coalition. "Momentum is clearly on the side of wineries and consumers, as additional states pass legislation and more courts hear the direct shipping case."


Parts of a pending lawsuit in Virginia now will be moot.


On March 29, 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams ruled unconstitutional a Virginia law banning the shipment of wine and beer from out-of-state vineyards and breweries to Virginia residents and from Virginia wineries to residents of other states. A stay was issued at the time, and a three-judge panel heard oral arguments Jan. 22.


Virginia is the 23rd state to allow for interstate, direct-to-consumer wine shipments from out-of-state wineries.


Separately, the U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, Richmond, VA, ruled April 8 that North Carolina's laws allowing in-state wineries to ship wines directly to consumers but making it a felony for out-of-state wineries to do so unconstitutionally discriminates against interstate commerce.


However, the three-judge panel said North Carolina does not have to allow interstate wine shipments to its residents. Instead, the state could enact a law that also banned North Carolina wineries from direct shipping.


Several other lawsuits involve direct wine shipments. Three suits -- in Michigan, New York and Texas -- are pending in appeals courts, and circuit court judges returned a case in Florida last November back to the original trial court.


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