An industry coalition claiming to fight for consumer choice in wine in the US has rubbished last week's claim that minors are buying alcohol online.

The group - entitled Free the Grapes! - accused the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) of "trotting out a tired argument already dismissed by the US Supreme Court, the Federal Trade Commission and state alcohol regulators".

"The intent of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America's 'survey' on underage access is to deflect attention from their real motivation: economic protectionism," said Jeremy Benson, executive director of Free the Grapes!

"Over the past 30 years, the wholesale cartel has consolidated from 11,000 wholesalers to an oligopoly of two or three per state. The wholesalers, not consumers, have been deciding which wines are available. But now, the courts, Federal Trade Commission, and state legislatures are supporting consumer choice and responding with reasonable regulations and controls," he added.

The report, based on a survey in April of over 1,000 people aged between 14 and 20, concluded last week that 3.1m minors - 12% - have a friend who has ordered alcohol online, while 551,000 - 2% - say they personally have acquired alcohol on the Internet.

"Common sense and the actual experience of state regulators demonstrate that direct shipping is not the common means for illegal youth access to purchase wine, beer or spirits," Benson continued.

"Underage access is a serious issue that won't be solved by special interest surveys created only to protect wholesalers' turf, and geared to target a proven, legal sales channel for adults."