Italian winery sues US state

  • Thursday 29 June 2006

An Italian winery is suing the state of Illinois in the US, claiming it unfairly protects homegrown producers.

Villa Monteleone wants a judge in Sangamon County to overturn a state law that allows Illinois winemakers to sell directly to consumers, while out-of-state vineyards must go through distributors.

‘This self-distribution privilege constitutes pure economic protectionism; there is no rational basis for the different treatment of Illinois and non-Illinois wineries,’ said the Verona-based company.

Some in the wine industry believe Villa Monteleone may have a point.

‘Quite logically it has to be seen as a protectionist thing,’ said Mike Rogers of London wine merchants Philglas and Swiggott, ‘it’s barely about protecting minors. In an open-market capitalist country like the US, the conflict at state level is obvious.’

The Italian winery claims state law puts it at an economic disadvantage.

‘This means that its products cost more than products from licensed Illinois winemakers,’ said lawyers for Villa Monteleone.

Despite this, Illinois winemakers, who make 2m litres of the 94m litres of wine consumed annually in the state, are behind the current legislation.

‘Some foreign company from Italy is going to tell the state of Illinois what's unconstitutional and kill an industry,’ Barrett Rochman of Blue Sky Vineyards in Southern Illinois told local newspaper Southern. ‘Whoever is doing this would be better served by sitting down with the Illinois wine people and fashion something that doesn't put them out of business.’

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is still reviewing the lawsuit.

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