Thanks largely to the work of the Institute for Justice, today the Supreme Court overturned laws that ban the shipping of out of state wines directly to consumers while allowing it from in-state wineries. Twenty-three states passed these laws with dubious justifications like the need to collect tax revenue (this an issue with all shipped goods, not just wine) and the need to protect minors from obtaining alcohol (they could just as easily do this from in-state wineries as from out of state ones, nor is this really a problem). The Court ruled that the laws were poorly veiled attempts at protectionism and violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Full decision here [.pdf].
Stephen Bainbridge, a man who knows his wine and his law, notes that not once in the past ten years has the Court split as it has done in this case: Kennedy, Scalia, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer in the majority and Stevens, Thomas, O’Connor, Rehnquist dissenting. He also cautions that states can still choose to forbid all mail order wine sales, thus not discriminating in favor of in-state producers; the concentrated benefits this would provide to wholesalers and retailers suggests that there are good reasons to expect that many of the states that had their laws overturned today may choose to do so.
The decision is good news for sites like Best Cellars, whose brick and mortar stores are among my favorite places to buy wine. Hopefully they’ll soon be able to drop pages like this one from their website. Unfortunately, Virginia law hasn’t been quite as good for them lately. I dropped by their Clarendon location this weekend to find it completely closed down while they apply for a new liquor license. From what I can gather, their previous license for both on and off site premise wine and beer sales has been invalidated by the state. Virginia requires anyone selling wine for immediate consumption to also have minimum monthly food sales of at least $2,000. Since patrons came to Best Cellars to sample their unique selections of wine, not food, their wine bar had to go. Now Clarendon has lost a nice spot to stop in for a glass of wine and Best Cellars has been shut down for a week while they jump through the requisite bureaucratic hurdles, but at least the neighborhood is finally free from the scourge of rowdy vandals made tipsy by a little too much pinot noir. Thank you, state of Virginia legislators.
In other wine news, don’t you hate it when that $1,000 dollar bottle you purchased has been tainted by a faulty cork? Yeah, me too. A new company called Wine Scanner, Inc. has come to the rescue. Their scanners use nuclear magentic resonance technology to detect spoilage products without ever opening the bottle. Think of it as giving your wine an MRI before dropping a load of money for it.
That link comes from The Morning News, which also points to this site that makes me yearn to be back behind the espresso bar again. It showcases some amazing latte art along with step by step photos of how they were poured and etched.