Retailers rejoice over Texas wine sales ruling

27 August, 2008
Page 6 
Consumers in Texas should be allowed to buy wines direct from out-of-state retailers, a judge has ruled.

Judge Sidney Fitzwater said the Texas government had been wrong to ban consumers from getting wine shipped to them from other states.

The ruling is the latest chapter of a power struggle between wine wholesalers and a section of retailers in the US. A three-tier system means most wine must be sold via wholesalers in the same state.

"We know wine lovers and lovers of free trade will rejoice upon reading this decision," said Tom Wark, executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, (SWRA), which helped file the complaint in Texas.

Wine retailers would now have the same protection against economic discrimination as wineries, said Wark.

The extent of the SWRA's victory remained uncertain, however, after Judge Fitzwater placed conditions on his ruling.

In a reciprocal deal, consumers would only be able to buy wine from a state that had also opened its doors to retailers in Texas.

He also gave the Texas government powers to force out-of-state retailers to buy their wines from Texas wholesalers.

That may quell fears among wholesalers that direct, interstate alcohol sales could cut them out of the chain.

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