Let’s hear it for the Commerce Clause! 14 years since Granholm v Heald.

May 16 marks the 14th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling Granholm v Heald. This decision on May 16, 2005 ruled that states that allow their wineries to ship to in-state consumers cannot deny that same privilege to out-of-state wineries siting the Commerce Clause. It didn’t ‘Free the Grapes” automatically, but as a result, states that had such laws on the books had to either ‘level up’ or ‘level down.’ That is to say, states either had to create legislation to allow all U.S. wineries the privilege to ship wine (leveling up) to consumers or none of them (down). 

So, what has happened in these 14 intervening years?

In 2005, just 27 states allowed both inter- and intra-state wine shipping. Today, 45 states allow direct wine shipments representing nearly 95% of total U.S. population. Winery-to-consumer shipments are still not legal in five states: AL, DE, KY (felony), MS and UT (felony), but not for lack of trying!

In the years immediately after Granholm v Heald efforts were focused mainly on opening up states to legal, regulated wine shipments by introducing the model direct shipping bill in states that prohibited shipping. Today, this remains the focus for our 5 holdouts, but in addition, legislation and lobbying has been aimed at ‘fix it bills’ that remove onerous hurdles, such as capacity caps (in Ohio and New Jersey), winery visit penalties (such as in Rhode Island), and wholesaler exclusion (such as in Indiana and Louisiana).

And on a more somber note, we were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Eleanor Heald, former Michigan wine writer who, with her husband Ray, played an integral role as plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case. She was a strong, committed advocate for consumer choice and free and fair trading practices.