The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has proposed wine labeling revisions to address concerns about the accuracy of labeling information for wines that contain more than 7-percent alcohol by volume but are exempt from label approval requirements. According to TTB, the regulations that govern wine labeling include (i) 27 CFR 24, which requires wine containers to feature “the name and address of the wine premises where bottled or packed; the brand name; the alcohol content; the kind of wine; and the net contents of the container,” and (ii) 27 CFR 4, which governs “the use of one or more grape variety names as a type designation, the use of type designations of varietal significance, the use of vintage dates, and the use of appellations of origin on wine labels,” such as the use of American viticultural area (AVA) names. Wines not intended for interstate or foreign commerce, however, may apply for a certificate of exemption from label approval under Part 4.

The proposed rule would amend 27 CFR 24 to clarify that even wines with a certificate of exemption must comply with the appellation of origin rules laid out in 27 CFR 4. “Some wine industry members have contacted TTB with their concerns regarding the accuracy of label information on certain wines covered by certificates of exemption from label approval,” states TTB, which also received a letter from congressional delegations in California, Washington, Oregon and New York. “Specifically, the wines in question are standard wines labeled with AVA names, but the wines do not appear to meet the part 4 requirements for using an AVA name.”

As an example, TTB notes that a wine bottled and sold only in Illinois— and thus exempted from labeling approval—can currently use a “Napa Valley” designation, even though the wine does not meet Part 4’s requirements for using an AVA name, that is, (i) “the AVA name must have been approved under 27 CFR part 9”; (ii) “not less than 85 percent of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of the viticultural area”; and (iii) “the wine must have been fully finished within the State, or one of the States, within which the labeled viticultural area is located (except for cellar treatments permitted by 27 CFR 4.22(c) or blending which does not result in an alteration of class and type under 27 CFR 4.22(b)).”

As the TTB explains, “The revised rules would require that a standard grape wine that contains 7 percent or more alcohol by volume and is covered by a certificate of exemption from label approval may not be labeled with a varietal (grape type) designation, a type designation of varietal significance, a vintage date, or an appellation of origin unless the wine complies with the relevant part 4 provisions for that label information.” See TTB Press Release, June 21, 2016; Federal Register, June 22, 2016.