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European Commission Petition Spurs TTB to Reexamine Vintage Date Allowances

Triggered by a petition from the European Commission, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has proposed revisions to the current vintage date requirements in order to allow vintage dates to appear on wine that is labeled with a country as the appellation of origin. Currently 27 CFR 4.27(a) defines vintage wine as “wine labeled with the year of harvest of the grapes,” and in order to include a vintage wine identification the wine “must be labeled with an appellation of origin other than a country (which does not qualify for vintage labeling.)” The original reasoning behind such a requirement was to ensure that customers can easily ascertain information about a wine’s quality and identity. The European Commission’s petition did not take issue with that underlying goal, but rather argued that some of its member countries are smaller than states within the United States. The practical effect of the vintage date rule thus essentially means a wine from California labeled with a “California” appellation can include a vintage date while a wine from the country of Austria, which is about half the size of California, cannot include a vintage date if the wine is labeled with “Austria” as the appellation.

The TTB will be taking public comment on the proposed rule through January 3, 2012. The full rulemaking notice is available here.


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