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Becoming a Different Kind of Wine Wonk

Inside the Washington D.C. beltway, politicians and those that work for politicians are often cast as, “Policy wonks” based on a capacity or interest in teasing out the detail in issues whilst actually reading bills and the stacks of briefs that are part and parcel with the job.  Meanwhile, the wine world, a haven for wonkiness of the pleasurable sort (is that Brett?), may soon have a need for a broad number of issue driven wonks, as well.

Last week, in my final post for 2010, I indicated that I thought there were two real issues that I needed to dive into based on where trends in the wine world were going:

Fine wine auctions
HR 5034

If given the opportunity to reflect for just a moment, I might amend, “HR 5034” to the general catchall, “Wine law.”

The reason having a deeper understanding of wine law is important to me, and should be important to you, is despite the Supreme Court ruling in Granholm vs. Heald in 2005, wine enthusiasts still find their wine rights in the cross hairs of profit motive-based interests from people that would like to continue curtailing free trade.


This, as they say, is a developing situation in 2011.

While I know most people reading this site find the idea of learning and understanding wine law about as interesting as dinner in Juarez, Mexico, as stultifying as a filibuster on C-SPAN and as painful as watching the chick on Bitchin’ Kitchen on the Cooking Channel (who is also the headliner at ZAP this year, natch), it seems like a no-brainer need to me. 

Wine consumers must be able to match and exceed the rigor of the opposition (those that oppose consumer wine rights).  This is particularly important because at this point wine consumers are primitively organized and completely under-financed to represent their own voice.  Knowledge is the first place to start.

At some point, wine enthusiasts need to get pissed like a tea bagger collecting Social Security with a mother on Medicare while opposing universal healthcare.  Know what I mean?  It doesn’t all have to make sense, but enough does.  Think Matlock and not Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.

And, if nothing else, knowing the gambit in Chapter 3 of the Art of War (the source of strength is unity, not size) should bolster confidence for a deeper dive into the wine law knowledge dive.

Enough smart people are enough … but right now there aren’t enough.

That said, whenever I seek out an understanding on a subject I don’t know enough about, I typically read, read some more, talk, and then read some more.  If I can blithely encapsulate a subject into an elevator pitch for my wife and talk about the same subject for 20 minutes with my wine club, I know I’m in good shape.

To make your wine law journey with me easier there are a number of wine law blogs that have emerged over the last year and I’ll start us off with a pidgin Latin saying to kick you in the butt: Illegitimi non carborundum (Don’t let the bastards wear you down). 

Below are links to a couple of books to act as primers, the TTB site for ongoing reference and then the blogs for ongoing maintenance.

Thank you, in advance, for getting your inner wine geek going in a different direction for everybody’s betterment.

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

Wine Politics

The Little Red Book of Wine Law

Wine Section of the TTB

Notes on Wine Distribution


Alcohol Law Review

ShipCompliant Blog

On Reserve


The Wine Lawyer

The Wine Law Blog



Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (4) |


On 01/18, Tom Johnson wrote:

As it happens, I’ve done a lot of research on this subject. The best broad overview of the Constitutional issues that I’ve seen is a piece by Marc Melzer in Journal of Constitutional Law (pdf). It was written as a backgrounder while Granholm and similar cases worked their way to the Supreme Court. It’s an excellent history of the evolution of the conflict between state power and the Commerce Clause, and gives a depth of perspective that is nearly absent from the current discussion.

Another thing I highly recommend is reading Granholm itself—something done by surprisingly few people who write about wine shipping have done. It did not, as is widely believed in the wineblogosphere, legalize direct shipping.

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that almost everyone with a prominent opinion on HR 5034 has a financial stake in the conflict. This is one of those issues when it’s best to take just about everything that’s being said with a grain of salt, because just about everyone who’s talking is making a buck off of it.

On 03/30, maquina de coser wrote:

To make your wine law journey with me easier there are a number of wine law blogs that have emerged over the last year and I’ll start us off with a pidgin Latin saying to kick you in the butt: Illegitimi non carborundum (Don’t let the bastards wear you down).

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On 10/29, replique montre wrote:

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