Saturday, February 7, 2009

Little Red Book of Wine Law: A Review

As an attorney and wine lover, I am always interested in the intersection between law and wine. Plus, legal decisions involving wine laws sometimes have a very direct effect upon my life. For example, a recent decision in the Massachusetts courts could pave the way for wineries to be able to directly ship to Massachusetts consumers. I eagerly look forward to such a day as I will be able to get access to wines I have been unable to do so currently.

Thus, when I saw a new book about wine law, I had to check it out. Little Red Book of Wine Law: A Case of Legal Issues by Carol Robertson (American Bar Association, February 2009, $19.95) is a trade-sized paperback of 166 pages. Carol is a practicing attorney and has been involved in numerous wine-related legal representation and litigation.

The book begins with a brief, anecdotal history of wine in the U.S. It has some interesting items but what annoyed me was that a number of the anecdotes were repeated later on in the book. I did not see any need for this repetition.

The rest of the book deals with twelve legal cases, decided from 1910 to 2008. Each chapter describes the background of the cases, the court decision and its effects, as well as its modern day applicability. The cases involve such wineries as Mondavi, Charles Krug, Kendall-Jackson and Gallo. Between each chapter, there is a Vignette which covers a variety of wine topics, from history to law, terroir to the three-tier distribution system.

Robertson presents the court cases in an easily comprehensible form so you don't need to be a lawyer to understand the issues. I found the book to be quite interesting, especially the cases involving the three-tier distribution system. I think those cases will appeal to many other wine lovers as well, especially as it is so relevant. Some of the older cases will appeal more to those who enjoy wine history, though Robertson tries to show the applicability of all of the cases to the current wine industry.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it with a couple caveats. First, the repetition of the historical anecdotes was unnecessary. Second, the book is a bit pricey for a small, trade- sized book. If you enjoy wine history or are interested in wine and the law, then this book should appeal to you. It is easy to understand and is written in a pleasant style.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that you are an attorney, Richard. I'm glad to hear you're interested in wine laws- I have a question in that area:

Do you know what law specifically outlaws out of state wine *retailers* from shipping to MA? With the recent movement on out of state winery shipment laws, I'm curious if you've heard of any progress on freeing up out of state retailers to ship to MA legally?


Anonymous said...

You might try our colleagues at the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, Thanks.
jeremy benson, executive director
Free the Grapes!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeremy! I wasn't aware of that resource previously.