Michigan Wine Lovers Have No Access to 89% of Wines

The increase in interstate wine shipment by wine retailers and wine stores over the past decade can be traced directly to 3 developments in the American economy:

1. A significant increase in the number and diversity of domestic and imported wine products in the U.S. marketplace

2. Increased access to information about these new and diverse wine products

3. New logistics and delivery technology allowing efficient delivery of wine products.

Yet while these developments increase the demand for interstate shipment of wine, they also throw into sharp relief the deficiencies of the now archaic wine distribution systems and laws still in effect in many states. Consumers realize they now have less access to the true American wine marketplace.

The state of Michigan is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Between January 1, 2014 and October 27, 2017, the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau —the federal agency that must approve wines for sale in the United States before they are sold—approved 405,513 wines for the American marketplace. Yet during that same time, the state of Michigan approved only 44,233 wines for sale in that state. This is barely 11% of the wines available nationwide. Put another way, 89% of wines available in the American marketplace are unavailable in Michigan.

Understandably, this lack of access to products, while frustrating to Michigan wine lovers, leads consumers to look beyond their state borders for the wines they want but don’t have access to locally. However, when consumers attempt to procure any of these wines, they immediately find they are blocked from obtaining them due to Michigan law that bars its residents from receiving shipments from out-of-state wine retailers and wine stores.

Currently, the state of Michigan is being sued by out-of-state retailers and Michigan consumers over the state law that bars them from transacting business across state lines. The suit alleges that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause that gives the federal government, not state governments, the right to regulate interstate commerce and prohibits the states from discriminating against out-of-state businesses.

Michigan consumers clearly have an interest in this litigation. If successful, the lawsuit is likely to provide relief to Michigan wine consumers who at the moment have no access to 89% of all wines available in the United States.