Compliance Matters

Wine is fermented grape juice which, due to the resultant alcohol, is very heavily regulated on the national, state, and local levels. Those who wish to enter and stay in the wine business have an obligation to know and obey all laws, rules and regulations. WineAmerica is dedicated to ensuring this by providing access to public and private information sources. This is general information, and not legal advice, which should be sought from an attorney.

WineAmerica is not a legal firm, but rather a public policy advocacy organization for the American wine industry. We work very closely with Wine Institute, which represents California wineries but has national and international reach. We also work with members of our State and Regional Associations Advisory Council members from about 25 states and, on some issues, with colleagues in the other beverage alcohol sectors. 

This section is to provide information on basic resources to enhance compliance in the areas of Direct-to-Consumer Shipping, Wine and Health, European Nutrition and Labeling Requirements, and to recommend social responsibility measures. For assistance with compliance matters, we recommend our supplier members Avalara and Sovos ShipCompliant for certain compliance services.

Direct-to-Consumer Shipping: WineAmerica has long been involved with this issue. We are one of the five founding organizations behind Free the Grapes, a national grassroots organization of wineries and wine consumers that sought to remove barriers to direct-to-consumer shipping.. WineAmerica worked with Wine Institute, Family WInemakers of California, Napa Valley Vintners and the now retired Coalition for Free Trade under the Free the Grapes Umbrella. Thanks to the collective work of these organizations and our state partners, the 2005 “Granholm” Supreme Court opened the floodgates and DtC is now allowed to some extent in 47 states. 

Since each state is different, this is a very complicated area, but fortunately Free the Grapes offers public access to the detailed information on its website Direct-To-Consumer Shipping Laws for Wineries. The main thing to know is that any winery wishing to ship into another state must hold the applicable permit from that state, pay all applicable taxes, and obey other laws and regulations. 

Wine and Health: This is another very complex area, with tight legal restrictions on what wineries and winery trade associations may or (mostly) may not say relative to the health effects of wine consumption. The specific regulations are shown below, as part of a larger document accessible here. While wineries and winery trade associations in some other countries, especially Europe, may discuss this, U.S. law forbids it.

Health-related statements

(1) Definitions. When used in this paragraph (h), terms are defined as follows:

(i) Health-related statement means any statement related to health (other than the warning statement required by § 16.21 of this chapter) and includes statements of a curative or therapeutic nature that, expressly or by implication, suggest a relationship between the consumption of alcohol, wine, or any substance found within the wine, and health benefits or effects on health. The term includes both specific health claims and general references to alleged health benefits or effects on health associated with the consumption of alcohol, wine, or any substance found within the wine, as well as health-related directional statements. The term also includes statements and claims that imply that a physical or psychological sensation results from consuming the wine, as well as statements and claims of nutritional value (e.g., statements of vitamin content). Statements concerning caloric, carbohydrate, protein, and fat content do not constitute nutritional claims about the product.

(ii) Specific health claim is a type of health-related statement that, expressly or by implication, characterizes the relationship of the wine, alcohol, or any substance found within the wine, to a disease or health-related condition. Implied specific health claims include statements, symbols, vignettes, or other forms of communication that suggest, within the context in which they are presented, that a relationship exists between wine, alcohol, or any substance found within the wine, and a disease or health-related condition.

(iii) Health-related directional statement is a type of health-related statement that directs or refers consumers to a third party or other source for information regarding the effects on health of wine or alcohol consumption.

(2) Rules for labeling

(i) Health-related statements. In general, labels may not contain any health-related statement that is untrue in any particular or tends to create a misleading impression as to the effects on health of alcohol consumption. TTB will evaluate such statements on a case-by-case basis and may require as part of the health-related statement a disclaimer or some other qualifying statement to dispel any misleading impression conveyed by the health-related statement.

(ii) Specific health claims.

(A) TTB will consult with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as needed, on the use of a specific health claim on a wine label. If FDA determines that the use of such a labeling claim is a drug claim that is not in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, TTB will not approve the use of that specific health claim on a wine label.

(B) TTB will approve the use of a specific health claim on a wine label only if the claim is truthful and adequately substantiated by scientific or medical evidence; sufficiently detailed and qualified with respect to the categories of individuals to whom the claim applies; adequately discloses the health risks associated with both moderate and heavier levels of alcohol consumption; and outlines the categories of individuals for whom any levels of alcohol consumption may cause health risks. This information must appear as part of the specific health claim.

(iii) Health-related directional statements. A statement that directs consumers to a third party or other source for information regarding the effects on health of wine or alcohol consumption is presumed misleading unless it—

(A) Directs consumers in a neutral or other non-misleading manner to a third party or other source for balanced information regarding the effects on health of wine or alcohol consumption; and


(1) Includes as part of the health-related directional statement the following disclaimer: “This statement should not encourage you to drink or to increase your alcohol consumption for health reasons;” or

(2) Includes as part of the health-related directional statement some other qualifying statement that the appropriate TTB officer finds is sufficient to dispel any misleading impression conveyed by the health-related directional statement.

To read more please go here: Labeling and Advertising of Wine

Alcohol Advertising Standards: TTB has strict rules when it comes to what you can and cannot say on your advertising. Whether online or on the bottle it is essential that all wineries follow the rules. The TTB has put together a helpful tutorial on what beverage alcohol producers can say on their advertising: Alcohol Beverage Advertising

California Bottle Bill: Formally known as the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, this bill affects all wineries which sell their products in California, including those from other states. CalRecycle has put together the following webpage for guidance:

European Nutrition and Labeling Requirements: The EU recently reformed what is known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). On December 6, 2021 and the new rules went into force on January 1 of this year. This includes a major change in wine labeling. The new wine labeling requirements will be enforced by EU Regulation 2021/2117, which amended existing regulations. The modernization process started in 2017 and will cover the years 2023-2027. 

Electronic Ingredient and Nutrition Information Disclosure

The EU wine industry has traditionally only been required to list allergens in their labels, much as the sulfite declaration on domestic wine labels. The CAP now requires ingredient and nutritional information be disclosed, but allows for electronic, off label disclosure. A full nutrition declaration and ingredient list can be provided through “electronic means” such as a QR code. That is, not required to be on the physical wine label. There are three limitations to the rule:

  1. A listing of ingredients causing allergies and intolerances must be on the physical label.
  2. Electronic disclosure cannot contain any other information.
  3. No user data can be tracked through electronic disclosure.

All wine labels must have this disclosure available by December 8, 2023, however it was later clarified that all wines produced before December 8, 2023 do NOT have to comply with the new labeling requirements. The rules originally stated that only wines produced and labeled before that date would be exempt from the requirements. That means that only wines produced after the December 8, 2023 dates will need to have the QR code or on-label disclosure. In other words, any winery exporting to the EU will not have to worry about changing their EU labels until after the 2024 harvest.

Obviously only EU exporting wineries need to be concerned with this new requirement. However, the off label disclosure options that are permitted by the EU could be the format we see here for domestic wine (beer and spirits as well) labels. 

More Information: Michael Kaiser, Executive Vice President and Director of Government Affairs, is WineAmerica’s source of information on regulatory compliance (