Minnesota wine lawsuit challenges out-of-state-grape ban

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A federal lawsuit has been filed by two Minnesota farm wineries, challenging the state’s ban on using out-of-state grapes to make wine. The wineries point to Minnesota’s booming beer industry, with some of the most successful breweries like Summit and Surly using out-of-state hops to craft signature beers.

Represented by attorneys with the Institute for Justice, the owners of Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Next Chapter Winery say the same law that protects the Minnesota grape industry from economic competition is also restricting the ability of Minnesota wineries to grow economically and compete in the wine marketplace.

The federal lawsuit argues that Minnesota’s out-of-state grape ban is a violation of the Commerce and Import-Export clauses of the U.S. Constitution, and their right to engage in interstate and foreign commerce. According to the lawsuit, open discrimination against out-of-state commerce is unconstitutional unless the state can prove that the out-of-state commerce at issue is more dangerous than the in-state commerce.

Most wines consumed in America are made with grapes that struggle to grow in Minnesota’s cold climate. Grape varieties created to grow in Minnesota often produce wine that many drinkers find too acidic, which is why Minnesota wine is typically a blend of Minnesota grapes and imported grapes. But, state law requiring Minnesota grapes make up the majority of a Minnesota maker’s wine limits the portfolio of wine they can produce.

The Institute for Justice previously won a wine-related case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2005, in the case of Granholm v. Heald, the court found it unconstitutional for states to discriminate against out-of-state wineries in the business of selling wine directly by mail.