Shoppers can buy just about anything online today with just a point and click, from a book to a pair of shoes to a camera. But buying a bottle of wine can be a little trickier.
That's because states, not the feds, have ultimate control over the sale of alcohol crossing their borders, unlike almost every other product. This allows states to prevent residents from buying that bottle of wine directly from an out-of-state seller.
A bill before Congress could strengthen states' hold on that power and make it harder for alcohol producers to break into new markets. The pending legislation has already reignited a fight between producers and wholesalers, whose business it is to distribute alcohol across the country and who represent one of the most powerful industry lobbies in Washington.
California's big alcohol industry fills the glasses of many Americans and the coffers of many politicians. The state's tax rates on alcohol are some of the lowest in the country as a result. Despite a large budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are not looking to change this any time soon.
"They have hordes of lobbyists," California Assembly Member Jim Beall, Jr. (D-24) said, describing the alcohol industry's political army. "One of them called me 'the devil.'" Why? Simply because Beall authored a recent failed bill to impose a fee on alcohol purchases.