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One of the “fun” things about living in MA (besides the obvious fun of “the weather” and “the people”) is that you can’t get wine shipping directly to your house anywhere in the state. Until 2005 it was illegal; until very recently it was effectively illegal; and now, thanks to a district court decision overturning a state law, it’s merely uncertain.

But uncertainty is a positive step in this state. If you read the “factual background” section of the text of the decision itself, you’ll get a fun overview of how, in typical Massachusetts fashion, the current situation is the result of a culture of cronyism and old-boys-club-ism, with wine wholesalers in the state controlling the legislative process and protecting their own monopoly at the expense of both wineries and consumers, typically while justifying their actions by appealing to the state’s deep-seated Puritan anti-alcohol sentiment.

The specifics of the legislation that was just overturned should give you an idea of the crass, absolutely unsubtle gerrymandering the state legislature is willing to stoop to, in this case to circumvent another state law that was overturned as unconstitutional in 2005 (by the US Supreme court, no less!):

The detailed account sheds light on a fact that we known all along—that the 30,000 gallon capacity cap was set conveniently above the production capacity of the largest winery in Massachusetts (24,000 gallons). This cap was designed to allow the Massachusetts wineries to ship directly to consumers, while simultaneously protecting Massachusetts wholesalers by prohibiting out-of-state medium and large wineries from doing the same.

Of course, we’re still a ways away from being able to join the Screaming Eagle wine-of-the-month club: MA still has a host of other regulations that make delivery services like Fedex and UPS either unable or unwilling to deliver wine, like requiring a special permit for each vehicle that might have wine on it. But maybe we’re getting closer. If nothing else, we can hope the increased attention will have a “sunlight is the best disinfectant” kind of effect on the issue.

William Morgan, January 2, 2009.