Currently in Indiana, consumers can purchase wine directly from in-state and out-of-state wineries, but to ensure proper age verification, consumers must visit the winery for an initial face-to-face transaction. A consumer can purchase no more than 24 cases a year from any single winery, and no winery can ship more than 3,000 cases into the state annually. After the first face-to-face purchase, consumers can order wine from that particular winery via phone or Internet. Although Indiana has made changes to its direct shipping laws that benefit wineries, many wineries still do not ship directly to consumers because they don’t want to comply with provisions of the law that are designed to reduce underage access.
For a number of years, Indiana wineries have attempted to break the three-tier distribution system so wineries could ship products directly to consumers’ homes without an initial face-to-face transaction. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Indiana’s face-to-face requirement in August 2008 when it overturned a district court’s ruling in Baude v. Heath. The appeals court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the face-to-face requirement is not needed because minors will find a way to bypass the system. The appeals court said, “The face-to-face requirement makes it harder for minors to get wine. Anything that raises the cost of an activity will diminish the quantity – not to zero, but no law is or need be fully effective.” The appeals court also reinforced that carriers cannot be required to check identification, and if they’re rushed, these carriers are less likely to properly verify a recipient’s age than a desk clerk at the winery.
Also in Baude v. Heath, the appeals court affirmed the district court’s ruling in favor of allowing those wineries that currently can ship products wholesale to retailers, to now ship wine products directly to Indiana consumers ordering over the Internet or by phone. Prior to this ruling, in-state and out-of-state wineries that ship their products wholesale through Indiana distributors could not sell to consumers via phone and Internet, because consumers could most likely find those products in local retailers. WSDI was disappointed in the court’s decision to change this law because it will increase the number of opportunities for minors to access alcohol.