California vintners fighting to be allowed to ship directly to consumers in other states have hired the lawyer, Kenneth Starr, made famous by his investigations into President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinksy, to represent them in court.

The Coalition for Free Trade, a group of wine companies backed by the Family Winemakers of California, has hired Starr to assist it in a legal battle against legislation in some 26 states which do not allow direct sales of wines and spirits to consumers.

Tracy Genesen, the Coalition's legal director, said that Starr had been hired because of his experience in arguing cases before the high court. The coalition would not say how much it would be paying Starr who is a partner in Washington DC law company, Kirkland & Ellis.