A federal judge in Florida has ruled that the state’s law barring direct-to-consumer wine shipments by out-of-state wineries is unconstitutional.

Consumers and outside producers had alleged in a lawsuit that legislation allowing the 33 wineries in Florida, a major consumer wine market, to ship to consumers but barring outside counterparts from doing so was unconstitutional.

On 5 August, Judge James Whittemore signed an order that stops Florida from enforcing the law.

Florida, a southern state, conceded that its legislation was unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s ruling in May that shipping must be fully equitable or totally eliminated. When Florida’s legislature meets in 2006 it can enact suitable legislation.

The Florida judge’s ruling came four days after North Dakota, in the Midwest, became the 14th state to permit outside producers to ship wines to its citizens under a reciprocal arrangement.

A new North Dakotan law allows an outside winery to ship to its citizens as long as its own wineries (of which there are six) can ship the same amount to residents in the importing winery’s state.

In Oklahoma, in the Midwest, the state Attorney General ruled last week that the 22 local wineries cannot ship their wines straight to in-state and out-of-state consumers. But they can ship wine to retail stores and restaurants.

In Philadelphia federal court, an Indiana winery is suing the Liquor Control Board of Pennsylvania, an eastern state, to force it to allow direct-to-Pennsylvanians shipping from outside.

Since the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Connecticut and New York have liberalized their direct-shipping laws. A federal judge in Ohio has ruled that Ohio laws and regulations limiting direct shipments into the state are unconstitutional. Rhode Island has prohibited all direct shipping.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York