Simplifications of Wine Labelling in the USA

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On July 19th Vinitaly International in collaboration with the Italian Embassy brought prominent Italian winemakers Allegrini Wineries, Casetllo Banfi, Cantine Ferrari, GIV, Terredora Winery and Casa Vinicola Zonin to Capitol Hill for a first ever meeting with Members of Congress. The important mission also included a working session with representatives of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which informed the principals on the latest developments in labelling of imported wine for the US.

Representatives of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and Lorenzo Galanti (Italian Embassy, Washington DC) in discussion with Italian Wine Producers and NABI on July 19th 2012

Many Italian wine producers will welcome this development as it significantly accelerates the label approval process from TTB.

On July 19th Vinitaly International in collaboration with the Italian Embassy brought prominent Italian winemakers Allegrini Wineries, Casetllo Banfi, Cantine Ferrari, GIV, Terredora Winery and Casa Vinicola Zonin to Capitol Hill for a first ever meeting with Members of Congress. The important mission also included a working session with representatives of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which informed the principals on the latest developments in labelling of imported wine for the US.

The latest developments in wine labelling rules concerned a simplification that allows for some changes to be made on the label of the bottle without requesting a new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA). For example a change in color, shape, graphics or alcohol content will no longer require a new COLA. This is of great value to wine producers since it reduces the cost and time to market most products that have an existing label approval from the TTB.

Stevie Kim, general coordinator of Vinitaly International, spearheaded the mission that brought the Italian wine community to the US Congress and said that: “the TTB discussed a very recent change to their labeling regime. Many Italian wine producers will welcome this development as it significantly facilitates and accelerates the label approval process from TTB. We were able to deliver this news directly to the producers during the meeting and Vinitaly International will continue to aim at new opportunities to educate the trade and consumers important issues regarding Italian wine.”

Bill Earle, Chairman of NABI (the National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.) and its members were instrumental in getting an expansive list of ideas to TTB last year, which formed the basis for the new approach by the federal government. At the meeting, wine suppliers thanked TTB for this step forward but commented that they are still facing overwhelming restrictions by the Italian government on what can be on a label and what type of changes to an existing label are authorized.

According to Bill Earle, “this would be a good time for the Italian Government to examine its rules for wine that is destined for export. Since exported wine will not be in the Italian market it would make sense to free Italian suppliers to create labels only for the export market and free themselves from Italian restrictions.”

Currently Italy has no control over the way their bulk wine is labeled once it reaches a foreign market. Freeing up export product could provide Italy with increased market and revenues at a time it is sorely needed.

TTB receives over 145,000 wine labels annually, thus making it very difficult to process all requests quickly. Moreover, only some 35,000 unique product codes (brand labels) for wine exist in the US market at this time. Many producers both import and domestic are applying for label approvals that they never use. Since the review process is online and at no additional cost, there is an incentive to submit multiple labels for the same product.

TTB is continuing to meet with EU officials and New World wine producing nations on recognized wine making practices. These meetings are intended on lowering barriers to US exports while keeping the import channel open and free of barriers. The next meeting of the New World wine group will be in New Zealand in November 2012.

According to Bill Earle and NABI it is very important for each wine suppliers to renew their FDA facility registration: “Beginning on October 1, 2012 there will be a 3 month window when all foreign food suppliers will be required to “renew” their existing registrations. If a supplier fails to renew it during this window, entry of product will be denied beginning January 1, 2013. FDA is preparing a webpage, which will be activated on October 1, to accomplish this renewal process. During this process producers will be able to update and revise registration information for any changes that have occurred since they were originally registered. This FDA registration is a component of the prior notice process for foods entering the US. Registration and prior notice were introduced as a result of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. The new rules on renewal are a component of the Food Safety and Modernization Act signed into law by the President on January 4, 2011.”

Bill Earle sees the efforts of Vinitaly Internationally in a positive light: “It is extremely significant that Vinitaly organized an entourage of the highest rank and expertise to make this visit to the Embassy and Capitol Hill. Frankly, important Congressional leaders need the pull of notable officials to get them out of their offices to any meeting. Since Italian producers are not direct constituents of US lawmakers the connection to the US based importer is of critical value. “

About Veronafiere
Veronafiere is the leading organizer of trade shows in Italy including Vinitaly, the largest wine event in the world. In 2012, over 4200 exhibitors showcased their wines to 140,000+ visitors (35% from outside of Italy representing over 120 countries). Veronafiere showcases Vinitaly in the World, http://www.vinitalytour.com, to develop an international platform for the promotion of Italian wine and food sectors. Next stop of Vinitaly Tour USA will be on January 28nd 2013 in New York City and January 30th in Miami, Florida. Follow us on Twitter (@VinitalyTour), Facebook (official page Vinitaly in the World), LinkedIn (Vinitaly International Network), Flickr as well as YouTube.

About NABI
The National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc. is a US trade association representing the interests of beer, wine and spirit importers at state and federal levels. Their mission is to help the importer members operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably by providing timely information, aggressive representation, and thoughtful advice on technical and political matters.

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Vinitaly International Media Team