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A Note on the Labeling of Wine in the United States

Labeling wine (or what appears to be wine) in the United States can often times prove to be quite confusing. Generally speaking, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (hereinafter “TTB“) of the U.S. Department of Treasury (or, formally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, hereinafter “BATF”) has jurisdiction over the labeling of alcoholic beverages. This jurisdiction derives from a federal statute called the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, 27 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (See Federal Alcohol Administration Act.) However, it is important to note, in the context of wine, the TTB only regulates wine products that contain seven percent or more alcohol by volume. This is an important distinction when labeling products as wine and conforming to the provisions set forth by the TTB, as they differ from those for wine products containing less than seven percent alcohol by volume.

How are wine products containing less than seven percent alcohol regulated in the United States?

Wine products containing less than seven percent alcohol by volume are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (hereinafter “FDA”). These products include wine coolers and flavored wine that contain less than seven percent alcohol by volume. Wine beverages with less than seven percent alcohol that purport to contain unfermented fruit or vegetable juice are governed by 21 C.F.R. § 101.30 and must declare the percentage juice. (See Percentage Juice Declaration for Foods Purporting to be Beverages that Contain Fruit or Vegetable Juice.) Wine beverages with less than seven percent alcohol that do not contain unfermented fruit or vegetable juice are not governed by this statute unless they purport to contain juice through advertising, the product’s label, vignettes, or physical characteristics of the product. Beverages containing less than seven percent alcohol by volume are “require[d to include] nutritional information, including calorie counts, to appear on the label. Malt beverages, including beer, are not required under federal law to carry this information, or list the alcohol content” on their labels. (See The Changing Face of the Beer Bottle.) Wine products containing less than seven percent alcohol by volume must include calorie counts and may list alcohol percentage. Contrast this with wine products containing between seven percent and fourteen percent alcohol by volume, which may include calorie counts and must list alcohol percentage under TTB regulations. However, there is some literature that postulates these regulations might change, but no action has been taken presently. (See generally, Why Don’t Beer, Wine, and Alcohol Have Nutrition Fact Labels?)

For more information on wine or alcohol law, labeling, advertising, licensing, or FDA or TTB matters, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

Lindsey A. Zahn

About 

Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

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