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Recently, I read an interesting article discussing the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by a United States winemaker. (See Much Ado About a Wine Marketing Designation.) The story reflects the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by Sea Smoke Cellars of Santa Barbara, California.  After receiving a review in 2008 from Wine Spectator writer James Laube that dubbed the winery as one of the “grand cru” properties in Santa Barbara, the winery used the term ‘Grand Cru’ on ” all of its 2009 releases.” (Id.) ‘Grand Cru’ is a term used by French wine producers and “is a rating for established vineyards, and is highly regulated as part of French wine law. The term is most closely associated with Burgundy, where it may be used on a few dozen highly regarded, high-quality vineyard parcels.” (Id.) In order to receive such a rating in France, the wine product and vineyard are continually subjected to quality control and strict regulations.

In the United States, we do not have a system that grants vineyards the title of ‘Grand Cru’ or the equivalent. “[Q]uality terms are not as regulated as they are in Europe. Most terms that imply quality, such as ‘reserve,’ are marketing terms here. They are not checked or approved by a regulatory body.” (Id.) It is interesting to consider the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by a non-French winery under conditions that are not as highly regulated. In the United States, using the term ‘Grand Cru’ can certainly be a marketing tactic. (See Sea Smoke Declares Own Vineyards ‘Grand Cru’ on the Label.) However, while the French may possess a strong regulatory system that awards vineyards with the prestigious title of the ‘Grand Cru’ term, is the use of this term by the French also not a form of marketing—especially to the American market?

More appropriately keyed to On Reserve readership, however, are the interesting legal implications of this term. Whereas ‘Grand Cru’ is not a legally-protected wine name (or a quality wine produced in a specified region, as outlined in the Agreement Between the United States of America and the European Community on Trade in Wine), it is still a wine term that indicates quality, standards, and regional regulation. Should the wine term ‘Grand Cru’ be protected in an analogous fashion to non-generic wines, and thus strictly reserved for wines bottled in the corresponding wine region by vineyards awarded this title? Alternatively, should the term be extended to other wine regions and allowed for marketing tactics, such we see with Sea Smoke?

For more information on wine or alcohol law, federal law, or labeling and advertising, 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.

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Reims, France; Champagne-Ardenne.

Some very exciting news reached On Reserve this morning, thanks to Sean Buckley of Texas Tech University School of Law. With the recent execution of the bilateral trade agreement between Australia and the EU on the first of September, this news comes to us with great understanding. This last week, Russian wine producers agreed to stop using the term ‘Champagne’ (or Shampanskoye in Russian) on products and are additionally in the process of creating a geographical indication for appellations of origin. According to an article in Harpers Wine & Spirits Trade Review, Russian producers of the Russian Winegrower and Winemaker Union gathered last Saturday at a sparkling wine fair  in Russia’s wine producing area of Krasnodar to “showcase their wines to Russian restaurateurs, wine industry professionals and journalists.” (See Russian Wine Producers to Stop Using the Term ‘Champagne’.) At the meeting, the producers signed an agreement, developed alongside the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), and agreed to use the term sparkling wine as opposed to Champagne, which furthers the protection of wine place name and origin. (Id.) Whereas the Russian Winegrower and Winemaker Union agreed to outlaw the use of the trademark ‘Sovetskoye Shampanskoye’ on its wine products, a definite timescale was not created for execution.

Boris Titov, owner of the sparkling wine producer Abrau-Durso, stated that producers recognize the problem the Russian wine industry is apparently facing: creating a place for Russia as a New World wine producer entails interacting with external wine producers and abiding by predetermined marketing rules and technological standards that are recognized in the international wine industry, including the protection of foreign geographical indications. Whereas Russian producers used the term ‘Champagne’ on its products for decades, and while there appeared to be a strong opposition for signing the agreement, Russian wine producers “voted in favour after strong encouragement from Abrau-Durso, the sparkling wine producer owned by Boris Titov.” (See Russia to Stop Using ‘Soviet Champagne’ Name.) Titov postulates that, in order for Russia’s own appellations to be recognized, Russian wine producers have to respect the appellation names of other countries and regions. (Id.) Currently, the appellation proposals are in the process of being discussed, but “are likely to focus on two main production areas: the Rostov-on-Don river valley and the Northern Caucasus, with sub-regions likely to include Anapa . . . .” (Id.)

With a trend in favor of the protection of wine place name and origin, especially with respect to Champagne, it is interesting to consider which country may be next to further the protection of Champagne.

Photographs are property of Lindsey A. Zahn; Wine & Law Program, Summer 2011.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or direct shipping, 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.

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Are You Writing a Note or Conducting Research on Wine Law?

The fall season is easily characterized by what is a sizable, but highly rewarding, project for many students in their second year of law school: the note writing process for law school journals. And while concerns dwindle from, “What topic should I choose?” to “Is my thesis strong enough” to “How do I properly cite this source?” the most important consideration when writing about an area with a moderate amount of scholarly resources—at least, in comparison to larger fields of law—is the type of resources to peruse throughout the writing process.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão. — Douro Valley, Portugal

Recently, since it is the season for note writing, I received quite a few e-mails asking about my own experiences writing a note on wine and the law. I am presently in the process of editing my Note, which will be published in early 2012, and doing so allows me to reflect on the decisions I made last year with respect to my topic, the sources, and even Bluebook citation formats. As such, I realized there are more than just students, but also academics and even practitioners, who are probably also interested in learning more about researching wine and the law and, perhaps, are even publishing their own work. Accordingly, this entry serves as a guideline for some research suggestions, as well as outlines my own experiences. Whereas I am not a practitioner or an expert, nor do I claim myself to be, I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing my note—especially because it was on a topic I was eager to learn more about—and I worked on it almost every day throughout my journal’s scheduled process.

My Experiences with the Wine Industry Prior to my Note

One of the questions I receive most frequently is about my experiences with the wine industry prior to writing my note (or pior to my blog). Whereas before this last summer, my direct experiences in the industry were limited to what I read about in books and articles, I did study hotel administration at a school in a dignified New York State wine region, notable especially for its Rieslings. I also attended many wine tastings throughout my four years at Cornell and became informed about the art of wine tasting, thanks to my specialized hospitality program. My love for wine certainly began there as I explored the various wine producers of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. Additionally, I spent my summers exploring the wine region in the eastern portion of Long Island. Those mere exploratory ventures, however, were certainly not enough to write a note with a legal thesis on the wine industry. Without firsthand experience working at a winery, my industry vocabulary was limited; I knew wine names, but the processes and terms were unfamiliar to me. Accordingly, I consulted what I felt was the best option for me at the time to familiarize myself with the industry: academic experts who wrote about wine law or about the wine industry in general. Firsthand industry experience is certainly helpful, but is not determinative of a successful note or article on wine law.

Quinta da Gaivosa (Domingos Alves de Sousa), Cumieira, Santa Marta de Penaguião

I think what particularly attracts me to the area of wine law, aside from my absolute academic interest in the unique interaction between wine and the law, is the fact that learning about wine is a continual experience through books, articles, traveling, and tasting—whereas I certainly do know a lot more about wine in terms of production, labeling, and varieties than I did two years ago, I know I still have much to learn. (But that is what excites me!) That being said, for a student or academic interested in writing about wine and the law, the field may seem overwhelming to individuals who are not familiar with wine or the industry at all. For such persons, I highly recommend reading about wine and the industry as thoroughly as possible before tackling the legal aspects of wine; domestic and international legal issues of wine do not come naturally without an understanding of how the industry works and the histories and perspectives of wine regions (specifically, comparing the Old World and the New World). For those seeking to research the legal issues of the domestic United States wine industry, a background in constitutional law—or, at the very least, an understanding of Prohibition—is indispensable.

Background Research: Where to Start?

If you are a student in law school, you have a lot of options to pursue. I suggest scanning contemporary publications—law reviews, newspapers, even blogs—to see what was recently published before collecting any serious research and developing a topic. Even if you are not a student in law school, law journal publications may still be of strong use to you; if not, a casual Google search will certainly yield appropriate academic and policy articles on the wine industry. Before choosing a topic, understand that wine law encompasses many different areas of the law: real estate and land usage, tax, intellectual property, fraud, labor law, international trade, constitutional law (21st Amendment; direct shipping; state’s powers, etc.), environmental law, food and drug law, international trade agreements (think TRIPS and subsequent bilateral treaties), and much more. Wine law is not one topic itself; rather, it is a subset of many different areas of the law, both internationally and domestically.

Quinta de la Rosa, Pinhão.

Whereas wine law is a niche practice area, there are many strong publications that can be great guides for a researcher, but the specific resources will depend upon the exact topic. Law review articles, including student notes, can be both interesting and worthwhile reads to collect more information about a specific topic (hint: check footnotes!). General books on the topic (i.e. intellectual property or geographical indications) can also add substance to research, even if not keyed specifically to the wine industry. On Reserve’s Suggested Reading tab also includes some of the resources I enjoy and find very applicable to wine and the law. There are also some wonderful resources available online, depending on the country, for international wine law issues and access to particular documents and treaties.

Finally, reaching out to experts in this field—attorneys, lobbyists, writers, academics—is certainly valuable. Such individuals will not only be able to provide valuable insight and advice but may also be able to furnish alternative angles or polish an argument, as well as direct you to additional reading material and sources.

Choosing a Topic and Developing a Thesis

Perhaps the most difficult decision for some students and writers is deciding what exactly to write about. If you are not restricted to a topic, pick what interests you most, an area for which you have a natural curiosity. If you are indifferent, use the preliminary research to understand the budding legal issues in the wine industry and choose a topic that shadows current matters. Depending on where you plan to publish, different publications have different guidelines that must be followed even before drafting your article or note.

In the beginning, remaining organized is key; after developing a thesis, a skeletal outline can help plan and arrange your story and argument (however, do note that such sketches tend to change throughout the course of research). I changed my topic twice throughout the course of writing my Note, and I certainly did not have a solid thesis until I read through a number of sources and truly understood how certain legal terms and agreements worked. I found the research process completely rewarding and enjoyable, and is the reason I continue to study and blog about wine and the law.

Photographs are property of Lindsey A. Zahn.

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Demand Truth in Labeling: Port and Douro Valley Wines

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Oporto, Porto, Portugal

I recently returned from an incredible trip to the Douro Valley and Oporto, Portugal, courtesy of the Center for Wine Origins and the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (“IVDP”). This trip presented to me the opportunity to explore the region, to learn about both Port and Douro wines during the region’s harvest season, and to ask questions about the legal measures the region implemented to protect Port and Douro Valley wines. The IVDP of Portugal is an interprofessional public institute whose duties include recommending the adaptation of ideal winemaking and winegrowing/viticultural policies for the region, to promote and protect the region’s appellations of origin and geographical indications, and to “discipline, control and supervise the production and trade of wines produced . . . promote and guarantee their quality, and sanction all infractions of the rules and regulations governing wines and wine products . . .” (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto—Presentation.) Its mission is to “promote the control of the quality and quantity of Port wines, regulating the production process, and the defence and protection of the Douro and Port denominations of origin and the geographical indication of the Douro Region.” (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto—Mission.) Similar to the CIVC of the Champagne region of France, the IVDP pursues strong measures to protect truth in labeling and to combat any counterfeit wines labeled as Port or Douro Valley that may emerge outside of the Douro region. Such measures extend to products other than just wines, i.e. the use of the word “Port” is protected from the use on products that are not wines.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Oporto, Porto, Portugal

The history of the protection of Port wines is one that I find quite interesting and also parallels the history of its sister region. During the 18th century, Port and Douro Valley wines encountered a dramatic increase in demand by the British. (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto—History.) As a result, “as it has occurred with all great wines, active trading instigated rivalries that often gave rise to fraud and infractions.” (Id.) Exports of Port wines stagnated during the middle portion of the 18th century, but the production of Port wines continued to increase. The prices for Port wines soon decreased, along with demand, as the British accused the wine producers of “doctoring” their wines. (Id.) Accordingly,

the great Douro farmers, desirous of protecting their interests, petitioned the government of the future Marquis of Pombal to create the Companhia Geral dos Vinhos do Alto Douro. This new institution, established by Royal Charter on 10 September 1756, was directed at ensuring the quality of the product, avoiding fraud, balancing production and trade, and stabilising prices. (Id.)

The Douro region has since grown and expanded with respect to legal protections. The IVDP currently requires a seal of guarantee (Vinho do Porto Garantia) to be placed on all wines that are inspected by the institution and qualify as either Port or Douro Valley wines. This seal of guarantee is evidence that the wine product is not only produced in the Douro region, but also a form of quality control—a symbol that the customer purchasing the wine product can expect to receive a particular caliber or standard. The seal is placed on both Port and Douro Valley wines. Usually the seal is placed on the neck of the wine bottle, but some producers opt to place the seal on the back of the bottle (for which there is a similar, albeit a bit different in design, label connoting same). (Image courtesy of ThePortForum.com.)

In addition the the requirements for a seal of guarantee, the IVDP website is a comprehensive source for the laws and regulations that govern the production, manufacturing, and bottling of both Port and Douro Wines. (See Douro Wine and Port Wine—however, note that the decrees are currently only accessible in Portuguese.) Additionally, the IVDP hosts an interesting and rather colorful gallery featuring frauds of the Appellation of Origin Porto—this is yet another step in promoting consumer awareness for truth in labeling.

Finally, Louisa Fry, of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, speaks here about the proper seal of guarantee required for all Port and Douro Valley wines that are bottled and labeled as such within the Douro region. (Video courtesy of Kate Connors of the Center for Wine Origins.)

Quinta do Tedo, Tabuaço; Oporto, Porto, Portugal.

(All photos are property of Lindsey A. Zahn, Portugal 2011, unless otherwise noted.)

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or geographical indications, 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.

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An epic adventure awaits me this upcoming week as I travel to Porto, Portugal, courtesy of Center for Wine Origins of Washington, D.C., to learn about the legal protections Portugal is pursuing to protect its highly-esteemed wine called Port. Port wine, under the federal law of the United States, is considered to be one of the sixteen semi-generic wines that currently are afforded legal protection by the United States government, but are not awarded as high of an indemnity as wines classified as non-generic. (See 26 U.S.C. § 5388.) The Douro River region of Portugal claims the origin of Port wine and, accordingly, seeks to augment the international level of protection for Port wines. Port—much like the French wine Champagne produced in the Champagne region of France—is produced under very strict legal regulations, the content and narrative of which I hope to report back with upon my return to the States, created by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP). Just as the French hold Champagne in high regards, Port is considered a gift of nature to the people of the Douro region, an endowment both economically and aesthetically that is characteristic of the land, climate, topography, and the people of Portugal.

My trip to Port will be in the accompaniment of several other wine bloggers and journalists, whose introductions will be made in a later entry, in addition to Kate Connors and Jade Floyd of the Center for Wine Origins. Our trip boasts an exciting itinerary, starting in Porto, moving throughout the Douro region as we visit the Quintas of the local area and learn about their production and experiences with Port, with various dinners and tastings paired with Port wine. I am very excited to report back to On Reserve with the stories of my travels and the legal knowledge that I will certainly acquire from this trip. This trip will be a great opportunity to network with individuals in the wine industry, as well as enlighten others about wine and the law (especially considering I finally have business cards!).

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Law Seminars International presents the Third Annual Comprehensive Conference on Texas Wine Law, to be hosted in Austin, Texas this October 20th and 21st at the Hilton Austin Hotel. It is recommended that “[a]ttorneys, vineyard operators, grape growers, wine producers and distributors, government regulators involved with the production and distribution of wine, and anyone interested in the winery and wine distribution business” attend this upcoming conference to learn about the legal issues that are continually evolving and challenging the industry. (See Law Seminars International.) The Conference, which is co-chaired by Lou Bright, Esq. of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and Kimberly A. Frost, Esq. of Jack Martin & Associates, brings together experts from Texas and around the United States “to provide the latest information and participate in stimulating discussions on a range of topics of interest to those in the wine and grape growing industry and those who represent them.” (See Law Seminars International.) The Agenda features important topics revolving around wine and law—including federal and state regulations on online advertising and marketing, label requirements and strategies, social media marketing by wineries, TABC labeling, TABC marketing, and TABC tax compliance guidelines—and includes speakers from the most respected law firms and organizations in the alcohol beverage industry. In summary:

Kimberly Frost and Lou Bright, the conference co-chairs, will present a comprehensive report on alcohol issues in the recent Texas legislature as well as ongoing rulemaking initiatives at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the impact of new laws and regulations. Representatives of the Commission and the Department of Agriculture will discuss the latest events, changes and programs at their agencies and in particular, the effect of recent budget reductions. National and state experts will present valuable insights and practical information on national trends affecting wine markets and law; salient topics in federal regulation; Texas water law; the challenges of ethical practice; and state of the art marketing practices. (Id.)

The Co-Chair Statement, as written by Lou Bright, is as follows:

Once again the Annual Texas Wine Law Conference is being held on the banks of the beautiful Colorado River in Austin Texas on October 20–21, 2011. Kimberly Frost, Jack Martin & Associates, and I, conference co-chairs, are pleased to extend this personal invitation to you to join us there. We are so excited about the conference agenda and faculty that we can hardly sit still and we’re sure that you will find this to be the most enjoyable and informative CLE event of the year.

Once again our faculty is composed of recognized leaders in our industry and regulatory agencies on both the state and national level. In practical and interactive sessions they will address the current hot topics such as:

  • National developments and trends in litigation and legislation,
  • Recent events and operational practices at the TABC and The Texas Department of Agriculture;
  • An in depth look at what the Texas Legislature left in their wake after the 2011 session including the state of Texas water law
  • The latest in marketing media
  • Check out the complete agenda

So pack up your bags, your questions and your experiences and come hear from our faculty and engage with them and the attendees in two days of discussion about our industry’s storied past, its dynamic present and its challenging future. Be sure not to miss the Thursday evening wine reception!

Lou Bright, Esq. of Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association

Additionally, the Law Seminars International poses the following topics will be the core of the Conference:

  1. Which three-tier system are you talking about?
  2. State regulatory update
  3. Creative approaches to production: custom crush vs. alternating proprietorship
  4. What’s in a label?
  5. Update on significant national developments with potential implications for marketing Texas wines
  6. New and social media marketing by wineries
  7. Enforcement: Labeling, marketing, and tax compliance guidance
  8. Texas Water Law developments of importance to vineyards and wineries
  9. Texas Department of Agriculture programs impacting the Texas wine industry
  10. ADA lawsuits that swept over California’s wineries and how to avoid such litigation
  11. Ethics for lawyers practicing before the TABC

On Reserve is delighted to announce a special discount for its readers: $100 off a full-priced tuition with the registrar. Simply call Law Seminars at 1-800-854-8009 and ask for the Registrar, Dale, to use this discount, and mention the On Reserve Discount when you register. “Regular tuition for this program is $995 with a group rate of $745 each for two or more registrants from the same firm. For government employees, we offer a special rate of $665. For students and people in their job for less than a year, our rate is $497.50. All rates include admission to all seminar sessions, food and beverages at breaks, and all course materials. Make checks payable to Law Seminars International.” (Id.) For more information, see the brochure for the conference.

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A strong congratulations is in store for Australia (and France), whose laws—as of today, September 1st—no longer permit the labeling of “Champagne” for any sparkling wine produced in Australia’s wine regions. (For more information, see France Takes Back ‘Champagne’ Label From Aussie Winegrowers; see also Protection of Champagne Name Increasing Worldwide.) As a result of this great milestone, I thought it appropriate to dedicate an article to the laws of Champagne and the history of such laws.

The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) is the trade association, located in the Champagne region of France, that represents all the grape growers and houses of the Champagne region. (See Comité Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne.) Since its establishment seventy years ago, the CIVC has created comprehensive laws that govern the growth and production of Champagne, as well as protect the economic interests of the region. The organization itself is established by a French statute “to administer the common interests of everyone within the Champagne industry.” (Id.) The CIVC laws for Champagne encompass processes such as analyzing suitable regions for grape growth and determining the proper grapes for Champange (generally speaking, only chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes are used to produce Champagne, although other grapes are allowed). Under the laws stipulated by the CIVC, only sparkling wines that conform to the regulations of the CIVC can be labeled as “Champagne.”

Abbey of Hauteville; Reims, France

The Champagne region “is defined and delimited by the law of 22nd of July 1927. It lies some 150 kilometres to the east of Paris, extending into the departments of the Marne (67% of plantings), Aube (23%), Aisne (9%), Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne. The zone stands at roughly 34,000 hectares of vineyards, spread across 319 villages (‘crus’) of which 17 traditionally rank as Grand Cru and 42 as Premier Cru.” (Id.) The area contains four general growing regions: the Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar. “Together[,] these [regions] encompass 281,000 individual vineyard plots, each with an average size of around 12 ares (1,200 square metres).” (Id.) The soil is composed of limestone, which is believed to affect the terroir of the sparkling wine. “This type of terrain provides good drainage and also explains why certain Champagne wines have a distinctly mineral taste.” (Id.) The region and the production of Champagne are subject to strict quotas and EU regulations governing the planting and replanting of vines. (Id.)

Champagne region; Champagne, France

The protection and labeling of wine names based on place and origin are not unique to Champagne; they are characteristic of wines that are, by American law, characterized as non-generic and—to some extent—semi-generic. (Laws outside of the States are different, as is indicated by Australia’s current change.) However, for wine products like Champagne (and tokay, port, sherry, and several others), protection based on the origin of the wine and/or grapes has not always been enforced in certain regions. Australia is one wine-growing region that, up until today, did not enforce the protection of the semi-generic wine names based on place and origin. However, in 2008, Australia signed an agreement, The Agreement Between Australia and the European Community on Trade in Wine, with the European Union to comply with the geographical indication (GI) system of the EU. The 2008 agreement, which was ratified last September, replaces an agreement signed in 1994 between the two wine powers and protects eleven of the EC drink labels and 112 of the Australian GIs. Specifically, this means that many of the wine products produced in Australia that were previously labeled according to European names, such as Champagne, will no longer be labeled under these names.

For a comprehensive background on the history of Champagne and the regulation thereof, see Margaret L. Wickes, A Toast to the Good Life: Exploring the Regulation of Champagne.

Photographs property of Lindsey A. Zahn, Summer 2011 Wine & Law Program.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or geographical indications, 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.

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Third Party Providers and the Future of Wine Laws in America

This summer I had the absolute pleasure of working with the legal and regulatory compliance department of Lot18, a dynamic and rising flash sale site for premium wines and epicurean products. Lot18 is a budding company stationed in New York City and embraces an enthusiastic—and highly admirable—dedication to customer service and the finest level of hospitality for its members. With this incredible opportunity came a true taste for wine law: I researched and perused all of the federal statutes relating to alcohol beverages—not just wine—and even learned a good portion of state regulations. But aside from reviewing regulations like the F.A.A., the I.R.C., and the 27 C.F.R., I was again met with a pattern that echos throughout the heart of the American wine industry: the antiquated laws regulating alcohol beverages in the States.

Lot18 Sign outside the Lot18 Office in midtown Manhattan.

The business structure of companies like Lot18—companies that do not formally sell alcohol beverages to customers, or ever obtain title to said alcohol beverages, but instead offer wineries and distilleries marketing services through access to their highly-defined customer basis via virtual mediums—is completely twenty-first century. Lot18 is considered a Third Party Provider (TPP) meaning that the company never sells, ships, owns, or obtains title to any of the products it sells; all products are shipped directly from the producer or manufacturer of the product to customers through legally-compliant, third-party shippers. Some alcohol products cannot even be shipped to particular states, as said states do not allow consumers to receive alcohol beverages directly from producers (and the Lot18 site reflects this). This type of business model is innovative and indicative of how quickly the Internet and virtual sales sites have emerged and flourished over the last decade; it is absolutely brilliant and an impressive way to connect a very specific and discerning customer profile with highly-esteemed producers.

The laws in this area, however, are not twenty-first century. State and federal laws do not outline the powers and the restrictions of TPPs—at least, not directly. These laws consider a more, arguably, twentieth-century (or perhaps even more backdated) business model of a traditional three-tier system sans TPP. The laws regulate businesses with licenses or permits, i.e. retailers, wholesalers, and producers. At no point are Internet sales, or providers of professional services via virtual means, considered.

It seems that with the rise of Internet flash sale sites, along with what is yet to come, the laws must eventually change to accommodate this alteration. The question is, however, when will this occur? And, until then, what are the legal rights and obligations of TPPs? There are numerous legal professionals examining this issue right now, but there is yet to be a definite answer. Hopefully, within time, the permissions and restrictions of TPPs will be more distinct and, perhaps, even legislated.

Thank you everyone at Lot18 for a fantastic professional journey this summer; I could not possibly be more grateful to your assistance, time, questions, and energy. Special thanks is owed to Ed Lynch and Ed Brown for their continued guidance. Congratulations on the sprouting of what is truly a commendable venture and one that I am certain will continue to grow remarkably over time.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, third party providers, or direct shipping, 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.

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Reprinted with the permission of Kate Connors of the Center for Wine Origins and the Champagne Bureau, United States.

In just three weeks, Australia will become the latest country to join the global movement toward robust truth-in-labeling laws that protect consumers by requiring that wine growing place names are reserved exclusively for the regions where the wines come from.

Most Australian wine producers stopped using Champagne and other misleading wine growing place names many years ago. On September 1, 2011, Australian law will officially reserve “Champagne” exclusively for wines from Champagne, France. Like the majority of countries in the world, Australia will recognize that when consumers buy a bottle of wine, they should be able to rely on the truthfulness of the bottle’s label.

Winemaking regions around the world rely on their place name, or “Geographic Indication,” to differentiate themselves from other areas. Consumers also rely on those place names because when it comes to wine, there is no ingredient more important than location. The land, air, water, and weather where grapes are grown are a big part of what makes each wine unique.

With Australia’s change in law, there are very few remaining countries that fail to adequately protect the name of Champagne and other winemaking regions. Of particular surprise is the United States’ reluctance to stand with the rest of the world and ban mislabeled wines. The United States is joined by only Russia, Vietnam, and a few other countries in not reserving the name “Champagne” for wines from Champagne, France.

Learn more and track the countdown at countdown.champagne.us—then encourage your readers to sign the petition to protect wine place and origin names at petition.champagne.us.

About the Champagne Bureau

The Champagne Bureau is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at www.champagne.us. Follow us on Twitter at ChampagneBureau.

Contact: Kate Connors at kconnors@clsdc.com.

Photographs property of Lindsey A. Zahn.

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Domitian’s Vine Edict: The Story of the First Wine Law

Wine Law. Is it of contemporary origin? Or does it have a past as complex as its present? Does it predate written history? Is there a story behind this unique field of law? Indeed, there is—and it is one that is just as distinctive as its present-day overtones.

The research I’ve come across in the last two years suggests that wine law—at least, the first recorded version of legislation regulating the production or consumption of wine—dates back to the days of the Roman empire. As such fieldwork conveys, the first written wine laws derived from Domitian, the Roman emperor from 81 A.D. to 96 A.D. His notoriety outlives him, as during his reign he charged and sentenced his blood relatives, and many others he concluded guilty of conspiracy, for Atheism and Jewish manners, deductively unethical during his prevalence. Domitian additionally allegedly slayed his brother and executed many Roman senators to confiscate estates or for other malicious purposes. However, despite this collection of rather explicit illustrations, Domitian also succeeded in generating the first wine law in the world.

The vine edict of Domitian in 92, which directed the interests of Italian wine growers, banned the planting of any new vineyards and ordered “half the vineyards in Asia Minor and other provinces to be uprooted” in Roman provinces. (See The Latter Rain Page: Domitian.) The vine edict “constitutes the only instance . . . of Domitian legislating for the entire Roman empire rather than for an individual province . . . .” (Brian W. Jones, The Emperor Domitian, 78.) The edict was created because of a strong outbreak of famine in the Empire and was designed to increase the production of corn in the Roman Empire by eliminating “mediocre vines occupying land that could be ploughed and was better suited for corn crops than wine-growing.” (Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, A History of Food, 287.) Despite this early attempt to regulate the wine industry, “[t]he opposition was so strong that [the edict regulating wine]  . . . could not be [properly] enforced.” (See The Latter Rain Page: Domitian.) History suggests the edict was ignored by the Roman provinces, as “the Gaulish wine-growers took their sacrifice with a very bad grace, and the legions had to be brought to enforce obedience . . . [but] the vineyards of Bordeaux survived this holocaust without suffering too much damage.” (Toussiant-Samat, supra.) However “Domitian’s edict, while probably not followed to any greater extent, stayed in effect for 188 years until [the Roman] Emperor [Marcus Aurelius] Probus repealed the measure in 280 AD.” (International Wine Regulations: An Understanding of the Challenges for Indian Wine Industry; see also Roman Times: Trade Protectionism in the Roman Empire.) Additionally, many wine historians believe the edict largely impacted the growth of the wine industries in Spain and Gaul.

This first notable attempt to regulate wine is predated by another legal issue affecting the wine industry. Accordingly, before Domitian’s edict, wine growers in Minervois “in the south-west of the province of Gallia Narbonensis, although in a privileged position, were already complaining of the pressure put on them (even more than on their grapes) by the proconsul of Narbonne.” (Toussiant-Samat, supra.) The proconsul, Fonteius, illicitly imposed dues on the wines from Minervois that were shipped from his quays. (Id.) “The wines then had to be sold below their proper price to remain competitive. Fonteius used the stolen money to pay for the services of a famous lawyer, none other than Cicero, who made one of his famous defence speeches on his behalf.” (Id.)

The examples above display a remarkable picture of the unremitting regulation of wine, prior to the attempt of colonial Americans to even grow wine. The patterns are evident: the legal connotations that exist today were born long ago. From regulation of yields and production to taxation to combatting wine fraud, the legal issues pertaining to wine unfolded centuries prior to contemporary regulations. Whereas past directives defined some of the matters in contemporary wine societies, our legislative measures have become increasingly more complex and forceful over time. However compounded, our modern wine laws owe their existence to the influences of historical powers, and always will.

(Image Credit: Domitian’s Evil Hour! The Nero Prediction and Domitian from ‘The Twelve Caesars’ by Suetonius, respectively.)

For more information on wine or alcohol law, TTB matters, or federal licensing, 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.

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