Category archives for “Wine Labels”

New FDA Menu Labeling Regulations Will Be Enforced Beginning May 2017

May 31, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) recently released final industry guidance on the new menu labeling requirements in accordance with 21 C.F.R. § 101.11, implemented to comply with a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The new menu labeling rules require chain restaurants to provide calorie information on the menu and provide, upon customer request, additional nutritional information for menu items. The FDA’s final guidance can be found here, and will help industry members comply with these new menu labeling rules, which the FDA will begin to enforce in May 2017. This blog post provides a summary of the menu labeling rules and the FDA’s industry guidance.

What businesses must comply?

The new menu labeling rules apply to restaurants or similar retail food establishments, such as a bakery, a convenience store selling foods intended for immediate consumption, or a concession stand, that are a part of a chain with 20 or more locations that do business under the same trade name and that offer substantially the same menu items for sale. Additionally, a restaurant or retail food establishment may voluntarily register to be subject to the menu labeling requirements.

What is required of those businesses?

Under the new menu labeling rules, these businesses will be required to include calorie information on menus for all standard menu items. Additionally, these businesses will be required to have written information available upon customer request, regarding nutritional information for standard menu items, including the amount of total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein. These requirements apply to standard menu items, and do not apply to daily specials, custom orders, alcoholic beverages on display that are not self-service, or temporary menu items that only appear on the menu for less than sixty days per calendar year.

Are alcoholic beverages included?

Yes, the new menu labeling rules apply to alcoholic beverages sold in a restaurant or similar retail food establishment that is required or has registered to comply with the menu labeling rules. The rules apply to all alcoholic beverages that are listed on the establishment’s menu, subject to the exceptions for daily specials, custom orders, alcoholic beverages on display that are not self-service, or temporary menu items that only appear on the menu for less than sixty days per calendar year. The exception for alcoholic beverages on display that are not self-service will be helpful for establishments preparing mixed drinks. If the liquor bottles are on display, and the drinks are not listed on the menu, the establishment will not be required to make available calorie or other nutritional information.

How can calorie and nutrient information for alcoholic beverage products be obtained?

An establishment must have a “reasonable basis” for determining the calorie and other nutritional information for standard menu items. Establishing a “reasonable basis” may include utilizing nutrient databases, published cookbooks that contain nutritional information for recipes in the cookbook, nutrition information determined by laboratory analyses, or any other means that is reasonable. The
U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) maintains a nutrient database, available here, which the FDA’s guidance refers to as reasonable basis for calorie and nutrient calculations.

How will alcoholic beverage producers be affected?

The new menu labeling regulations will impact all alcoholic beverage producers that sell products to chain establishments with 20 or more locations. Those establishments will likely request that the alcoholic beverage producer provide the calorie and nutritional information for its products sold at the establishment. As most alcoholic beverages are not subject to the FDA rules governing labeling and nutritional information, this law will mainly affect alcoholic beverage producers that do not currently maintain calorie or nutritional information regarding the beverages that they produce. Alcoholic beverage producers should check the USDA database referenced above to see whether their products match entries currently listed in the database, as the database includes entries for several common types of alcoholic beverages. Additionally, the Brewers Association has announced that it will be running laboratory analyses for approximately 100 beer styles over the next year, which the Brewers Association plans to submit for inclusion in the USDA database. Alternatively, producers could submit their products for laboratory analyses in order to obtain accurate nutritional information.

For more information about menu and product labeling requirements, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel for a consultation.


The Burden of Proof: TTB’s Annual Alcohol Sampling Program

April 20, 2016

Most of what consumers know about the alcoholic beverage products they buy comes from their interaction with the label, so it is important to get it right. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates the labeling of most beverage alcohol products, recently released their annual alcohol beverage sampling program results, highlighting the most common compliance issues with drinks labels in the marketplace. Every year, the TTB conducts a random survey of alcoholic beverage products available for sale to the public. They select a range of brands across the distilled spirits, wine and malt beverage categories, and crosscheck the information on the label against the beverage in the bottle (or can, or alternative packaging). In 2015, well over a third of the distilled spirits and malt beverages surveyed were non-compliant (at 62 out of 154, and 61 out of 158 respectively), and just under a quarter of the wines were non-compliant (at 34 out of 138).

Many of the products in the market were found to have labels that were different from the certificates of label approval (COLAs) that the TTB had issued for those products. The TTB has worked hard in the last few years to balance its limited resources against ever increasing numbers of COLA submissions, and has published a long list of allowable changes that can be made to approved COLAs. However, some changes still require a new COLA. Some of the information on the label can be changed or removed, the shape and color can be altered, and statements and graphics can be moved, but it is difficult to add anything new without getting a new COLA.

Leaving aside COLA compliance, however, far and away the biggest issue identified by the TTB was related to the alcoholic content claims of the products surveyed. Each category of alcoholic beverages has some room to maneuver with the stated alcohol content. In particular, wine and malt beverages have greater tolerances, because the regulations recognize that they are products which can and often do continue to evolve in the bottle. However, even with these permitted tolerances, over 20% of the samples had a stated alcoholic content that was non-compliant. A table wine between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume (ABV), is allowed to be up to 1.5% either above or below the stated alcoholic content on the label (provided the wine remains in the same tax class, below 14%). Wine with over 14% alcohol can still be up to 1% over or under the stated amount. Malt beverages can be up to 0.3% different from the labeled ABV, either higher or lower. In contrast to the permitted variations for wine and beer, distilled spirits are not allowed to contain any alcohol over the stated ABV. The regulations reflect TTB’s view that there is no reason why distilled spirits should not be able to be accurately proofed upon completion of production. Spirits are allowed a small 0.15% tolerance below the labeled amount, which reduction is only to recognize possible losses during bottling. The proofing and gauging of distilled spirits is key to the TTB’s principal aim of protecting the revenue, and is directly linked to how much tax is paid by the producer. The TTB offers a range of resources to help producers and bottlers with that process, and it is important to ensure that care is taken when your product is labeled.

For any questions related to labeling of beverage alcohol, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.


Class Action Dismissed in Arsenic in Wine Claim

March 28, 2016

Just over a year ago, a class action was filed in California against a group of six winery defendants, producing 83 named wine brands, alleging that the wines contained unsafe levels of arsenic (Charles et al. vs. The Wine Group, Inc., et al, No. BC576061). The case triggered numerous articles about wine potentially being unsafe for consumption. On March 23, 2016, the Los Angeles Superior Court sustained a demurrer by the wineries defending the claim, and dismissed the action. The plaintiffs did not allege actual harm from exposure to arsenic; rather, they asserted that the non-disclosure of trace arsenic constituted a breach of California’s “Prop 65” labeling and consumer notification requirements. The court disagreed. All claims against the wineries were dismissed.

Due to its presence in soil and ground water, virtually all food and beverages contain trace elements of arsenic. There is no US regulation setting a maximum quantity of arsenic that may be present in either food or wine, although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does have a limit for inorganic arsenic in drinking water, at 0.01mg per liter. Other countries regulate arsenic levels in wine. For example, the European Union adopted a maximum of 0.2mg per liter, a standard set by the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV). In Canada, there is a maximum limit of 0.1mg/liter of wine. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), one of the world’s largest wine purchasers, conducts regular testing of wines from all over the world, including some of the wines identified in the lawsuit, and all were below the regulatory limit for arsenic.

Shortly after the original claim was filed in this matter, UC Davis published a very helpful factsheet about arsenic contamination, which can be found HERE for more information.

Around the time of the original California state case, nearly identical arsenic lawsuits were also filed in federal courts in Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico, with a long list of additional defendants. Those lawsuits were each dismissed without prejudice, and are not affected by the decision in California. The California plaintiffs have said they plan to continue to pursue their case, indicating that an appeal may be forthcoming.

For more information about the case, or about California wine labeling generally, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.


What is in the Bottle? Rules for California Appellations on Wine Labels

November 10, 2014

Appellations of origin are the place names that describe where the grapes that make up a given wine were grown. There are rules controlling the statement of appellation on the label, all of which are aimed at making sure that the label of the product accurately reflects what is inside the bottle. Most of the appellation labeling rules are in the Code of Federal Regulations at 27 CFR Part 4, but state law must also be considered, and can sometimes be more limiting than the federal rules.

Appellations are required on wines if the label also includes a varietal designation or a vintage year (27 CFR 4.34(b)). The chart below lists some of the basics on appellations for wines made from California grapes.

Federal Rules

Appellation on Label What is in the Bottle?
California 75% of the fruit must be from California and the wine must be finished within California or an adjoining state. (27 CFR 4.25)
A County in California 75% of the fruit has to be from the county and the wine has to be finished in California. (27 CFR 4.25)
Two or Three Counties in California All of the fruit has to come from the listed counties, the percentage of fruit from each county has to be listed on the label, and the wine has to be finished in California. No more than three counties can be listed. (27 CFR 4.25)
An American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California AVAs are specific geographic areas approved by the TTB. A list of all of the AVAs in the country is available here. 85% of the fruit has to come from the AVA and the wine has to be finished in California. (27 CFR 4.25)


Special California Requirements

Appellation on Label Special California Rule
“California” or any geographical subdivision of California (including a county or two or three counties) 100% of fruit must come from California. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 17, § 17015). This rule is more specific than the federal rules, and means that any wine with a California appellation of any kind must be made from 100% California fruit.
“Sonoma County” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within Sonoma County. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25246)
“Napa Valley” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within Napa County. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25240)
“Lodi” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within the Lodi AVA (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25245)
“Paso Robles” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within the Paso Robles AVA (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25244)
“Napa”, “Sonoma” and any AVA in Napa County The rules for using “Napa,” “Sonoma,” and any AVAs in Napa are especially strict. Those terms cannot appear on the labels unless the wine in the bottle qualifies for use of the term under the federal labeling regulations.(Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25241, 25242 and 27 CFR 4.25)
Counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, San Benito, Solano, San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa, Monterey or Marin Any written representation (e.g., labels, advertising, company letterhead, etc.) that a wine is produced entirely from grapes grown in these counties must be true. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25237)
“California Central Coast Counties Dry Wine” This designation can only appear on a label if all of the grapes are from the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, San Benito, Solano San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa, Monterey or Marin. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25236)

Related Labeling Considerations

The appellation rules noted above are intertwined with other federal labeling regulations, which may also come into play. For example, if a label includes a varietal and an appellation, 75% of the grapes used in the wine must be of the stated grape type and all of those grapes must come from the stated appellation. (27 CFR 4.23) If the label includes a vintage year and an appellation, 85% of the grapes in the wine must be from the stated vintage year – and if the appellation is an AVA, the percentage requirement rises to 95%. (27 CFR 4.27)

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Reconsiders Use of “Estate Bottled” Following a Winery Sale

May 21, 2014

To be labeled as “estate bottled,” a wine must be, among other things, made from grapes grown in an American Viticultural Area, on land that is owned or “controlled by” the winery, and the winery must crush, finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process.

Previous guidance from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) suggested that a wine would not be entitled to use the “estate bottled” designation if a change of ownership of the winery occurred at any point during the winemaking process, because the new owner technically would not have “controlled” all phases of the process. To address this issue, sellers and buyers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines would sometimes enter into an Alternating Proprietorship Agreement (“AP”) whereby the seller would maintain its bonded winery operations until all wine in process at the winery as of the closing date had been bottled and labeled. This approach was difficult for both sellers and buyers, given that the AP could be in effect for a lengthy period of time depending on which stage of production the “estate bottled” wine was in.

In a recent private letter ruling, the TTB advised that it has reconsidered its position and that the proprietor of a winery can use an “estate bottled” designation for wine that was grown and fermented by a predecessor proprietor and bottled by a new proprietor (provided the wine also met the other requirements under 27 C.F.R. § 4.26). The ruling provides that the ownership of a winery may change while the wine is in process as long as the bottling winery does not change. The TTB further explains that the definition of “controlled by” refers to the land on which the grapes are grown and the winery operates, as opposed to the owner of such land. With a change in winery ownership, the “estate” land is not altered, and thus the new owner can maintain the “estate bottled” designation.

This guidance from the TTB should come as a welcome relief to potential purchasers and sellers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines.

For questions about the acquisition or sale of a winery, please contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Says Alcohol Content Can Move to the Back Label for Wine

June 10, 2013

Announced today, and effective August 9, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) has announced changes to its labeling requirements for wine. Amending 27 CFR 4.32, the alcohol content for wine no longer must appear on the brand label, and instead it may be printed on the brand label or on other labels affixed to the bottle, including the back label. The TTB also amended 27 CFR 4.36 to the effect that wines with alcohol content of at least 7 percent and no more than 14 percent may still be labeled with either (a) the designation of “light wine” or “table wine” on the brand label, or (b) the numerical alcohol content of the wine. The new amendments do not permit the “light wine” or “table wine” designations to appear on any label other than the brand label. A new COLA is not required if the only change made to an approved label is the relocation of the alcohol content statement. If you have any questions about labeling, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Implements Changes to Break COLA Logjam

July 11, 2012

TTB recently released a new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) form for alcoholic beverage labels, Form 5100.31, available here. The new form has several minor changes, but the most significant update is the expansion of the revisions that can be made to an approved label without having to submit a new COLA application. The new form should be a welcome change for industry members, who can now make more modifications to existing labels without waiting for TTB to approve the changes. The change is expected to significantly reduce the number of COLA applications submitted to TTB, thus reducing the turnaround time for new labels. The form became official early this month, and among the new revisions permitted to labels without the requirement of a new COLA application are:

- Re-position of label information, including text, illustrations, and graphics.

- Change of colors (background and text), font type and size, spelling and punctuation, and change from an adhesive label to one that is etched, painted, or printed directly on the container.

- Add a vintage date for wine labels (note that changing or deleting a vintage date was previously permitted, and the new form is only a change to the extent a vintage date is added where there was no vintage date previously).

- Change the optional “produced” or “made” by statements on wine labels to “blended,” “vinted,” “cellared,” or “prepared” by statements.

- Add, delete, or change UPC barcodes and/or 2D mobile barcodes, e.g., QR codes or Microsoft Tags (previously, only “UPC codes” were explicitly listed).

- Add, delete, or change trademark, copyright symbols (e.g., TM, ©), kosher symbols, company logos, and/or social media icons.

- Add, delete, or change information about awards or medals.

- Add, delete, or change holiday, and/or seasonal-themed graphics, artwork, and/or salutations.

- The new form also removes the requirement for separate COLA applications for packages that are 237 mL and below or 3 liters and above.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about the new form or the COLA application process.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


Gluten Claims on Beer, Wine, and Distilled Spirits Labels

May 30, 2012

TTB issued an extensive ruling last week that provides guidance to industry members seeking to label their products with statements about gluten-content. TTB Ruling 2012-2, available here, serves as in interim policy on the gluten-related labeling claims, until such time as the FDA, which governs labeling for all food items, and TTB finalize rules on the subject. As consumer demand for all types of gluten-free foods and beverages has risen over the last several years, proper labeling of those products has been a difficult issue for both the FDA and TTB. At its core, the problem is that testing for gluten-content remains imprecise. As a result, laws and regulations that permit labeling products as “gluten-free” or claiming a certain amount of gluten content have been slow to develop, and TTB’s practice has been to reject label applications that include gluten-based claims. TTB’s interim policy provides a means for industry members to include some gluten-related labeling information on their labels, and will likely result in the approval of more labels that claim to be gluten-free or low in gluten.

The FDA, and by extension TTB, has struggled with a definition for “gluten-free” for nearly a decade. The FDA was first tasked with issuing a rule to define “gluten-free” with the passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The FDA then issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2007, proposing to define the term “gluten-free.” The proposed definition included that the item have no more than 20 parts gluten per million. The FDA has still not issued a final rule, and in 2011 recognized that for some food types, including fermented foods, there are no validated methods to determine if the product contains less than 20 parts gluten per million. Throughout the FDA’s process, TTB has deferred making its own rules related to gluten. The interim policy is TTB’s first effort to address the issue.

TTB regulates alcohol labeling and advertising through the Federal Alcohol Administration Act “FAA Act” and its regulations at 27 CFR parts 4, 5, and 7. At issue are regulations that: a) prohibit the use of labeling or advertising statements that are false or untrue in any particular, b) prohibit, irrespective of falsity, statements that directly, or by ambiguity, omission or inference, or by the addition of irrelevant, scientific or technical matter, tend to create a misleading impression, c) prohibit the use of any health-related statements in the labeling or advertising of wine, distilled spirits, or malt beverages if such statements are untrue in any particular or tend to create a misleading impression.

In its interim policy, TTB agrees with the FDA that “there are no scientifically valid methods for accurately measuring the gluten content of fermented products.” Up until now, this fact and the requirement that TTB prohibit misleading labels and advertising has meant that labels that include gluten-related claims have been rejected. TTB’s new guidelines provide a means for industry members to get labels approved that previously would have been rejected.

The interim policy sets forth two primary rules. First, TTB will allow the term “gluten-free” on the labels of products that are produced without any ingredients that contain gluten. For example, wines produced from grapes or vodka produced from potatoes may include the statement “gluten-free” on their labels or advertising material. No products made from gluten-containing materials may be labeled as “gluten-free.” For those products made from gluten-containing materials, including spirits and malt beverages “produced using wheat, barley, rye, or a crossbred hybrid of these grains,” TTB will allow labels that contain all of the following information: a) a statement that the product is “Processed or Treated or Crafted to remove gluten;” b) a qualifying statement to inform consumers that (i) the product was made from a grain that contains gluten, (ii) there is currently no valid test to verify the gluten content of fermented products, and (iii) the finished product may contain gluten; and c) a detailed description of the method used to remove gluten from the product. Approved statements may not contain any reference to the level of gluten in the product. Additionally, in order to evaluate the method used to remove gluten from the product, TTB will require submission of results of the “R5 Mendez Competitive ELISA assay” for the finished product for the purpose of screening the validity and effectiveness of the method used to remove gluten. Such statements may only be made on labels where the gluten content is less than 20 parts per million.

Despite the strict standard set by the TTB for gluten-related labeling, the new guidance is likely to result in numerous submissions for label-approvals based on the new rules. For additional information on labeling issues, feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


Bioengineering and the TTB

September 09, 2011

People, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, are often concerned about genetically modified organisms or bioengineering in their food. Given the fervor, does it make sense for suppliers to assume the concern extends to alcoholic beverages and label accordingly? While some manufacturers may want to highlight that their products are “GMO free” or “GM free,” the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) current policy prohibits such labeling. Producers of non-alcoholic beverages have a little more latitude regarding GM labeling: The FDA’s position is that special labeling of bioengineered or genetically modified foods is not required, but manufacturers may voluntarily label their foods with such information. Additional information on the FDA’s position is available here. The TTB tends to be very cautious in allowing new types of information on alcohol labels and often prohibits any reference whatsoever until they have had the opportunity for careful review and can provide guidance in the proper manner of presenting such information. This has been true in the context of organic labeling and with respect to nutritional information (e.g., calories, fat, carbs, etc.). So we can expect that the TTB will weigh in with some direction on how GM-related statements can be offered in the future, but for now, they cannot be used on alcoholic beverage labels. Be sure to keep the TTB’s position in mind before submitting a certificate of label approval with any “GMO” related terms or references.


TTB Maintains Strict Requirements for Organic Labeling Claims

August 24, 2011

Ever wonder whether the claim that a wine uses “organic grapes” is really true? Wine is one area where if such claims make their way onto a wine bottle, they are almost certainly valid, as the TTB and the National Organic Program (“NOP”) maintain extremely strict requirements for organic claims on the label. The NOP has four primary categories for alcoholic beverages: 1) “100% Organic,” 2) “Organic,” meaning at least 95% organic and with no chemically added sulfites, 3) “Made with Organic [ingredients],” requiring at least 70% organic ingredients and may contain chemically added sulfites, and 4) for certain products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients, the ingredients statement may disclose the organic components.

In order to make any organic claims on a wine bottle or other alcohol label, TTB requires several sources of verification, making for a comprehensive but arduous application process. Along with the items normally required for label approval, applicants must first provide a Processor’s or Handler’s Operation Certificate, which certifies that the winery uses accepted NOP standards. This is often referred to by the TTB as the “organic certificate.” Notably, imported wines sometimes have difficulty meeting this requirement because foreign certifications are only sufficient if the foreign entity is also a USDA-Accredited Certifying Agent. Next, applicants must provide an Accredited Certifying Agent Preview, which indicates that the label has been reviewed and found to be in compliance with TTB rules. Additionally, applicants may need to provide a crop certificate that certifies that the agricultural produce used in the product were grown to NOP standards.

The TTB also has specific rules for the label itself, including requiring a “certification statement,” which includes the name of the accredited certifying agent. These requirements must be repeated for each vintage year, as labels for new vintages must be resubmitted for approval.

Notably, despite these strict requirements for organic wine labels, other statements on wine bottles that pertain to farming techniques and other “green” claims are largely unregulated by the TTB. However, this is a fast-evolving area, so stay tuned.

If you need assistance with organic labels, the attorneys at Strike & Techel are familiar with the process and able to help.

UPDATE: On June 12, 2012, the TTB announced a change to the organic documentation requirements. A copy of the organic certificate is no longer required to accompany COLA applications for alcoholic beverages with “100% Organic,” “Organic,” or “Made with Organic (ingredients)” on their labels. The Accredited Certifying Agent Preview is still required. Please eee the TTB release, available here, for additional information.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


We Want COLAs! When Do We Want Them? NOW!

August 18, 2011

While patience is a long standing member of the virtue list, it’s not always easy. But a little patience goes a long way when dealing with regulatory compliance matters like certificate of label approvals (COLAs). The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) began accepting COLA applications online several years ago, which reduced the processing time for new COLA applications to just a few days. In their ongoing efforts to streamline their processes for industry members, the TTB began accepting formulas and permit applications online as well. More recently, the TTB announced a streamlined approval process along with the end of expedited review (previously discussed here and here). Notwithstanding these efforts, the volume of COLA applications has continued to swell with processing times becoming progressively longer. To help people estimate their wait time the TTB is now providing average COLA processing times through its website (the information is in a chart on the upper right hand side of the page) or by phone (dial 1-866-927-2533, press 4 for malt beverages and distilled spirits labels and 6 for wine labels). Given government budgets cuts and increases in label approval applications, it seems likely that the days of getting labels approved in four or five days are not likely to return. The federal labeling regulations allow the TTB to take up to 90 days to approve a COLA application. 27 C.F.R. § 13.21(b) (2011). Processing times currently are much shorter than that, but industry members should plan accordingly and allow at least 30 days for label approval through COLAs Online. The attorneys are Strike & Techel are available if you need assistance with TTB regulatory matters, including COLAs.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Label Applications Now Require Listing of Wine Varietals

July 08, 2011

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has updated the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) form used to apply for label approval. The application, which is form TTB F 5100.31, now requests information about any grape varietals listed on a proposed wine label. Additionally, the COLA form has been updated to consolidate items needed for a pre-COLA evaluation, which is required for some products. The application form now consolidates these requirements into a “formula” field. The new COLAs online application system will also be updated to reflect these changes, but for the present time, COLAs filed electronically will not be required to include grape varietals.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Streamlined COLA Process Announced by TTB

May 09, 2011

In a bid to streamline the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) process, the TTB has announced that it will no longer examine COLA applications to determine whether the label images included in the applications meet the applicable type size, characters per inch, and contrasting background requirements. They will continue to review all submitted labels for inclusion of mandatory information and exclusion of the prohibited, but the TTB has asked industry members to self police when it comes to the technical character and background requirements. This does not mean, however, that the requirements can now be ignored. In the circular announcing the new policy, the TTB reserved the right to deny and return applications on type size, etc. grounds when it “deems necessary.” To that effect, the following statement will be included on new approved COLA applications:

QUALIFICATIONS: TTB has not reviewed this label for type size, characters per inch or contrasting background. The responsible industry member must continue to ensure that the mandatory information on the actual labels is displayed in the correct type size, number of characters per inch, and on a contrasting background in accordance with the TTB labeling regulations, 27 CFR parts 4, 5, 7, and 16, as applicable.

The official reason TTB has given for making the change in procedure was to reduce the time wasted in the COLA process due to image distortions in submitted electronic files. The good news is that the label approval process should be faster with this new policy in place. But the flip side is that the importers and bottlers submitting COLA applications bear greater responsibility for ensuring the labels are in compliance with the labeling regulations. In addition to reserving the right to reject non-compliant labels, TTB also has the power to revoke COLAs it has previously issued, so non-compliant labels that obtain an approval still could be rejected – even after being applied to bottles. The associated costs and logistics problems of a COLA revocation make it important to continue to pay close attention to the minutiae when creating new labels.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB’s Permits Online System Up and Running; Expedited Review a Thing of the Past

February 14, 2011

Today the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) launched their Permits Online system, which is available here. The system is a counterpart to the Formulas Online and COLAs Online systems. The Permits Online system allows the application procedure for federal alcohol and tobacco business permits to be completed entirely online. The system allows one to prepare, submit and track applications through the TTB’s online portal, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But as with many technology innovations and advances, there is often a corresponding down side. A few weeks ago, the TTB announced that they are no longer accepting “Expedite Requests” or “Informal Reviews” for certificate of label approvals (COLAs) and formula approvals. The former expedite option allowed for rapid turnaround of approvals that was especially helpful for the industry at large.

With a dramatic increase in approval requests over the years, coupled with shrinking governmental budgets, the TTB decided that all applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, without any expedite availability. Further, the TTB stated that applicants should plan for a full 90-day review period, which does not include any additional time that could be necessary if label or formula changes are requested. The TTB did note that online applications are processed about twice as fast as paper applications, so there is a real incentive to using the online portals. If you have an upcoming formula approval or COLA, be sure to factor in enough time for the TTB’s review given that the expedite option is no longer available. If you have questions about formula or label approvals, please feel free to call any of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Extended Comment Period on TTB Notice 109: Use of Winemaking Terms

January 14, 2011

The deadline has been extended for comments on the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau’s (“TTB”) proposed amendment to regulations regarding common winemaking terms used on wine labels and advertisements. Written comments are now due by March 4, 2011. The TTB set out their proposed new regulations in Notice 109, “Use of Various Winemaking Terms on Wine Labels and in Advertisements”, published November 3, 2010 in the Federal Register. The comment period was extended at the request of Napa Valley Vintners (“NVV”). NVV has formed a subcommittee to research and survey members on the proposed new regulations.

There are four main proposals set forth by the TTB in Notice 109. First, the TTB proposes requiring the use of the terms “estate grown,” “estate,” and “estates” to meet the higher threshold definition it currently ascribes to “estate bottled.” Second, the TTB proposes codifying its policy of only allowing the terms “proprietor grown” and “vintner grown” if 100% of the grapes used in a wine are grown on vineyards owned or controlled by the bottling winery. Third, the TTB proposes to codify its current position that “single vineyard” may only be used when 100% of the grapes used in the wine come from one vineyard. Further, it would extend that reasoning to the terms “single orchard,” “single farm,” and “single ranch.” Fourth, the TTB is considering codifying definitions for the following terms: “Proprietors Blend,” “Old Vine,” “Barrel Fermented,” “Old Clone,” “Reserve,” “Select Harvest,” “Bottle Aged,” and “Barrel Select.” The TTB made the proposals in an effort to ensure that consumers are not misled by wine labels and advertising. Should these changes occur the TTB could revoke its approval of previously approved labels.

The Federal Alcohol Administration Act (“FAA Act”) sets forth the regulations for alcohol labeling and advertisements, including wine. The TTB is responsible for the administration of the FAA Act and the promulgation of regulations thereunder. The specific wine labeling and advertising regulations can be found in Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


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