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A Liberalization of Kansas Wine Law: Reduced Requirement for Grapes Grown in Kansas

In May 2012, Kansas approved a law that dramatically changed the regulation of its wine industry. The new state law, which spawned from House Bill 2689, reduces the requirement of the amount of Kansas grapes that must be in a Kansas wine. The bill amends K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 41-308a. Under the amended state law, Kansas wineries now must use at least 30% Kansas-grown wine products. The new law cuts the requirement from 60% to 30%. No matter how one analyzes this law, this requirement is a significant change to Kansas legislation. While “[t]he provision doesn’t apply to individual bottles, but rather a winery’s overall products—for example, a winery that produced one type of wine with 100 percent Kansas grapes and two types with none should fit the bill.” (See New Law Changes Requirements for Kansas Wine.) This means wine producers in Kansas can legally bottle wine containing less than thirty percent of Kansas, as long as the percentage of Kansas wine from the winery’s overall products meet the Kansas legislative mandate.

There are arguments on each side for the introduction and the implementation of a law like this—those in favor of such legislation argue this new law supports a free market and will promote the Kansas wine industry whereas those opposed to the law argue the relaxed requirement could harm the identity of the Kansas wine industry. (See, e.g., Kansas Wineries Concerned About New State Law; Mulvane Winemaker Sees Opportunity for Industry Growth in New Law.) Irrespective of these different perspectives, the Kansas law itself is worthy of attention and discussion. The amended law, along with the removed provisions, now reads:

Not less than 60% 30% of the products utilized in the manufacture of domestic table wine and domestic fortified wine by a farm winery shall be grown in Kansas except when a lesser proportion is authorized by the director based upon the director’s findings and judgment. The label of domestic wine and domestic fortified wine shall indicate that a majority of the products utilized in the manufacture of the wine at such winery were grown in Kansas. The production requirement of this subsection shall be determined based on the annual production of domestic table wine and domestic fortified wine by the farm winery. 

Read in conjunction with federal law, this may appear—at first glance—inconsistent with federal law. Wine labels in the United States are governed partially by Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically by Part 4. (See 27 C.F.R. Part 4.) Section 4.25 of Title 27 defines an appellation of origin for American wines. Namely, § 4.25(a)(1) allows a state to be an American wine’s appellation of origin if “[a]t least 75 percent of the wine is derived from fruit or agricultural products grown in the appellation area indicated,” as per § 4.25(b)(1). However, the new Kansas law does not avoid the federal legislation. It is possible, under this new law, to be a winery in Kansas, produce wine containing 30% Kansas grapes, and not violate the federal legislation. The federal law requires 75% of the grapes to be grown in the state of Kansas if the appellation of the wine is Kansas (e.g., “Kansas wine”), but it is not mandatory that a wine have an appellation. But irregardless of whether a Kansas winery can legally comply with the federal law while using 30% (or less) of Kansas grapes in its wine, a more proper question to ponder is this: should this rather liberal regulation of Kansas wineries be allowed? 

 

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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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