What is wine law? This is a common question I receive whenever I tell people I focus on wine law. The answer, more or less, amounts to this: wine law in the U.S. entails many areas of the law and several different government agencies. Wine law is not one set of laws, nor one area of law. The topic spawns centuries of history (in the U.S. and outside), several federal statutes, multiple agency regulations, fifty-one differing state and district laws, international trade agreements, and much more.
In part, the above is because of the history of wine regulation in America and throughout the world (namely, Europe or the “Old World”). In fact, it is quite daunting to study contemporary laws and regulations governing the wine industry without understanding the complex history of alcohol regulation in the United States or the development of the European philosophy on wine. The more I go back and re-read the Puritan influence in the early colonies and pre-Prohibition attitudes, the more I understand the development of our modern alcohol beverage system and laws.
For now, rest assured that wine law includes the following: labeling, permits and licenses (including, but not limited to, retail, wholesale, importing, and production), appellations of origin and geographical indications, trademark, intellectual property, direct shipping (from wineries to consumers, among other issues), international agreements (including TRIPS and bilateral wine trade agreements), environmental law, regulatory compliance (federal and state, and multiple agencies), contracts, property and real estate, health, business law, e-commerce, tax, trade, and employment law. Wine law, however, is not exclusive to the above—and given the intricacy of both the substance and its past, the law of wine probably never will be.