Proposed Bill in Washington Would Allow Wine Sales in Growlers
(Olympia, WA December 11th, 2013)--If a proposal by the advocacy group Family Wineries of Washington State becomes law next year consumers would be able to fill customer owned containers, or “growlers,” with wine anywhere in Washington that beer can presently be sold in that format.
“It’s high time that Washington consumers were able to use this wildly popular and environmentally friendly concept.” said Paul Beveridge, winemaker and president of the group, adding that “Studies have shown that roughly 65 percent of a winery’s carbon footprint is due to the glass packaging.”
In addition to specialty beer and wine shops, taverns and restaurants, refilling wine in growlers would also be allowed at winery “additional tasting rooms” of the type that many Eastern Washington wineries now operate in Woodinville. Beer sales would also be allowed in such tasting rooms as well as beer growler sales. Similarly, breweries and microbreweries would be allowed to sell wine in order that they might be added to the list of places that wine in growlers could be purchased.
Beveridge noted that consumers in Europe have purchased wine this way for decades and that consumers in some other states are gaining the same privilege. “Just this year the Oregon legislature unanimously passed a similar bill which Governor Kitzhaber signed into law” said Beveridge.
Under the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s interpretation of state law, a change would be required to create a specific allowance for selling wine in refillable growlers. In order to effect that change, Family Wineries of Washington State ran this bill in the regular 2013 legislative session, but confusion on the part of some industry stakeholders about whether the process was legal under federal law de-railed the bill. Beveridge’s group has since sought and received written clarification from federal regulators that, with proper labeling and licensing, the concept is legal.
A peculiarity of federal law requires that any person “re-packaging” wine, unlike beer, must have a federal license. Current guidance from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) interprets filling of growlers to be repackaging. This is why it’s possible to have a growler filled at a winery but not a wine shop. This guidance has been in place since the 1970’s when the wine growler concept was not much in the public eye.
“We hope, and have reason to believe that the TTB might change their guidance and agree with us that this increasingly popular process is simply retailing, not repackaging” Beveridge said. “Until then the federal licensing requirement is certainly workable, if cumbersome.”
Family Wineries of Washington State is a business league promoting member wineries and advocating for streamlined regulation and freedom of marketing for small Washington wineries. For more information, visit www.familywineriesofwashington.org.