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Michigan: out-of-state wineries can ship

A federal judge in Detroit has decreed that outside wineries can ship wine straight to Michigan consumers.

His ruling is consistent with the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in May that a Michigan law allowing direct shipment within the state only by Michigan producers discriminated against outsiders.

The latest lawsuit, decided on Tuesday, was brought by wine writers Eleanor and Ray Heald, who were plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case.

Opposing them, state attorney general Mike Cox and Michigan wine wholesalers asked the judge to temporarily bar shipments by both in-state and outside wineries.

Wholesalers, seeking to insulate their monopoly on distribution, feel threatened by direct sales from outsiders. Michigan’s 43 wineries, striving to protect their US$75m a year industry, fear losing a 20-year-old right to supply Michigan consumers directly.

Compromises resulting from competing bills in the Legislature have satisfied neither side. Tuesday’s ruling still permits Michigan legislators to alter the shipping law.

The Supreme Court’s revolutionary decision, which led quickly to New York State and Connecticut legislation liberalizing interstate shipping, is reshaping the way wine is bought in America in ways that benefit wine lovers and small producers.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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