This article was contributed by Sterling Minor, a Houston attorney and independent fine wine consultant.
In 2005, the United States Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional laws of Michigan and New York that restricted out-of-state wineries from directly shipping their wine to consumers in the state [Granholm v. Heald]. Since that time, many states, including Texas, have modified the state’s law. Texas law now allows out-of-state wineries to ship, and Texas consumers to receive, unlimited shipments of a winery’s own wine.
However, consumers have fared poorly when the seller is a retailer rather than a winery. Texas law has long prohibited its residents from “importing” wine except in one instance: the Texas resident physically accompanies the wine across the state line into Texas, and may only do so to a maximum of three gallons over a 30 day period. Further, Texas law prohibits retail locations from outside the state to ship into the state. These laws were challenged by out-of-state retailers and Texas residents in two lawsuits , and for an approximately 18 month period in 2006-2008 Texas agreed to a Court order that it would not enforce the prohibitions either on consumers or out-of-state retailers. The agreed order ended in January, 2008. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States in January, 2010 ruled that all of the Texas statutes involved are constitutional. Therefore, Texas residents may not “import” wine except when crossing over the Texas border with the wine in possession; concomitantly, a Texas resident may not “import” wine by use of a carrier, and an out of state retailer may not send wine into Texas by carrier.