The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals made an important decision yesterday regarding face-to-face transactions when shipping wine directly to Indiana consumers. After Indiana initially passed its direct shipping laws to comply with Granholm, the face-to-face requirement was successfully challenged in August of 2007. However, yesterday’s decision will eventually reverse the face-to-face clause.
None of the plaintiffs contends that Indiana’s law has led him to buy more wine from Indiana and less from other states. The law simply shifts sales from smaller wineries (in all states, including Indiana) to larger wineries (all of which are located outside Indiana). The Indiana Winegrowers Guild has filed a brief as amicus curiae opposing the face-to-face clause, which the Guild maintains has made it unduly difficult for its members to ship their wine direct to consumers. But if what the Guild says is
true, then the statute—although bad economically for Indiana’s wineries—must be sustained against a challenge under the commerce clause. Favoritism for large wineries over small wineries does not pose a constitutional problem, and the fact that all Indiana wineries are small does more to show that this law’s disparate impact cuts against in-state product than to show that Indiana has fenced out wine from other jurisdictions.
The judgment of the district court with respect to the wholesale clause is affirmed, and with respect to the face-to-face clause is reversed. The case is remanded for the entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.
We expect to receive clarification from the lower court or from the Indiana ABC on how current and future permit holders can comply with the existing statutes. We’ll update you here as we receive more information.