The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recently proposed amendments to 27 CFR Part 4 that would allow winemakers to reference added distilled spirits on labels and in advertisements. Currently, wine labels and advertisements are prohibited from including statements indicating that a wine contains a distilled spirit unless the wine is required to bear a statement of composition which references the use of a distilled spirit. While this 1930’s prohibition sought to protect consumers from misinformation, the TTB acknowledges that as the wine industry has evolved, the regulation has become inconsistent with the TTB’s mission. Allowing this additional information provides manufacturers flexibility and empowers them to communicate with consumers more accurately about their wine products.

To repeal the prohibition and allow reference to distilled spirits on wines, TTB proposed the following modifications for 27 CFR Part 4:

  • In Section 4.39, detailing prohibited practices for wine labels, paragraph 4.39(a)(7) would be revised to only prohibit references to distilled spirits that are “misleading or inaccurate” instead of any reference even if accurate. Additionally, the proposed change removes the exception allowing for references to distilled spirits in a statement of composition if the wine does not meet a standard of identity as it no longer necessary.
  • In Section 4.64, detailing prohibited practices for advertisement of wine, paragraph 4.64(a)(8) would be revised to only prohibit references to distilled spirits that are “misleading or inaccurate” instead of any reference even if accurate. Additionally, the proposal removes the exception allowing for references to distilled spirts in a statement of composition if the wine does not meet a standard of identity as it is no longer necessary.

If finalized, these modifications allow labels and advertisements of any wine containing distilled spirits to directly reference the composition of the distilled spirits as well as include the term “fortified.” The statement must not be misleading, and manufacturers must ensure consumers can easily identify the product as wine (not a distilled spirit) and understand that fortification refers to added distilled spirits (not added vitamins or minerals). For example, a grape wine fortified with apple brandy could be labeled as “grape wine fortified with apple brandy” and “apple wine with apple neutral spirits.”

Winemakers can submit written comments addressing the modifications and risk concerns to TTB no later than August 12, 2022.

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Our team assists wine manufacturers and advertisers navigate changing regulations in the federal alcohol beverage industry as well as review labels and advertisements to ensure federal and state compliance. Contact Emily Lyons or your Husch Blackwell attorney for more information.