The intersection of wine, commerce, and legal technicalities might seem quite dry (pardon the pun) at first glance, but as Eric Asimov summarizes in his recent New York Times piece, there's a lot at stake in this week's Supreme Court hearing of a case called Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair.
Asimov's piece is worth reading and I won't be attempt to regurgitate it, but if you've ever even thought of buying wine online, you should care about the outcome of this case.
As consumer purchasing behavior has moved decidedly in the direction of less friction/deliver to my doorstep, the beverage alcohol establishment (aka the three tier system) has opted to resist rather than evolve. In a nut shell, it is unlawful for a retailer to ship wine to consumers across many state lines. Resulting largely from arm-twisting by state branches of the Wine & Beer Wholesalers Association, several
states have started cracking down on interstate wine shipments, issuing cease-and-desists to major wine e-commerce
retailers, and roping FedEx and UPS into the mix.
I've written about this a couple of times and have not-so-privately speculated that the establishment's entrenchment could invite a fight in a ring they don't own. Is this case the one? We won't know until a decision is made and the details become clear, which is likely months away. But the fact that the Supreme Court is revisiting the subject matter could be good news for consumers.
The case will go in front of the court on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. I, for one, will be pouring myself a glass of something tasty to enjoy while reading the recap of the court's questions.