10/19/2010 10:14 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Proposed Law Could Severely Limit Interstate Wine Shipping

Garagiste and other retail operations that do big Internet business, like K & L Wine Merchants in California and Zachys in Scarsdale, N.Y., are lifelines to the world's wonderful diversity of wines.

Yet as welcome as these lifelines are, they may be threatened by a bill introduced earlier this year before the House of Representatives, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010, or H.R. 5034, which has the potential to severely restrict direct interstate shipping of wine by retailers. Direct sales from wineries could be threatened, too, although the current language of the bill appears to focus more directly on retailers.

Proponents, including beer and wine wholesalers, say that that is not the intention of the bill, which would make it far more difficult for wineries and retailers to challenge state laws in the federal courts. Instead, they say, it would merely reaffirm the authority of the states to regulate alcohol sales, and diminish the authority of federal courts, which they say have been confusing and inconsistent. They also suggest that they are trying to prevent minors from illegally obtaining alcohol.

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