NEW YORK — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that New York state cannot stop wineries in the rest of the country from shipping wine directly to state residents in what vintners hailed as their biggest victory yet against such shipping bans.
Developments in the case are being widely watched, as New York consumers make up the second-largest wine market in the United States behind California, which is also the country's largest producer. Although lawsuits challenging direct shipping bans are pending in a number of states, New York is the largest market where such litigation is pending.
"Corks are popping for hundreds of wineries across America that rely on direct shipping for sales," said Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, which argued for the wineries and consumers who filed the lawsuit.
"It is the best news yet in the ongoing battle to permit direct shipping of wines to consumers."
Direct shipping cannot start immediately, however, as U.S. District Judge Richard Berman stayed enforcement of his ruling pending an appeal by the New York attorney general and wholesalers seeking to maintain the ban.
The decision followed Berman's finding in November that New York's direct-shipping ban is unconstitutional because it discriminates against out-of-state vintners that want to sell products directly to in-state consumers. Currently, only New York wineries can ship to New York residents.
To overcome the discriminatory aspects of the ban, lawyers for the New York state attorney general and wholesalers then sought a ruling that would also bar New York wineries from shipping directly to consumers.
Berman, in a one-page order, denied their request and said that the defendants could not stop out-of-state wineries from shipping to consumers in the same manner as in-state vintners.