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Comments on TTB Rule 160B Due Tonight

Regulation would restrict use of AVA names on wine labels to the state where the AVA is situated
by Kerana Todorov
January 08, 2018

Wineries outside California may not be able to continue to label their wines “Napa Valley” if the bottles are produced outside the Golden state.

The Napa Valley Vintners and others want federal regulators to restrict the use of AVA names on wine labels to the state where the AVA is situated. A loophole in the law allows wineries as far as Wisconsin, New York or Texas to mention the Napa Valley — or other prestigious AVAs — on their wine label if they sell the wine in their home state.

Allowing a winery to identify a wine produced and labeled in Wisconsin as “Calistoga” is “misleading labeling practice,” the Napa Valley Vintners wrote federal officials in 2016. If the trade association is successful, no wineries would be able to use the term “Napa Valley” if the wine is produced out of state.

Under a proposal under review by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, grape source information printed on labels would be limited to the name of the county – or counties – or the state — or states where the fruit was picked. The federal agency, which has the option of not changing the law, is accepting comments on the proposed amendment until 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday, Jan. 9.

The proposal has drawn criticism from wineries outside of California, trade associations and others.

Lawyers Jeremy Siegel and John Hinman wrote the TTB after the proposed change was introduced in 2016 that wineries could be faced with “significant inventories of wine that, because they lack the type of information on their labels that consumers rely to make their purchases, will be worth much less money and will be difficult or impossible to sell even within their local market area.”

Lodi grapegrower Bruce Fry wants out-of-state wineries to continue to place “Lodi” AVA on their wine labels.

“The best thing is to leave it alone,” Fry said Monday, regarding the wine labeling rule.

Fry said growers in the Lodi appellation have spent more than $30 million to market the “Lodi” name, grapes and area. The proposal, he said, would economically hurt their efforts. “There are market opportunities out there,” Fry said.

“One of our goals in Lodi and as a grower is to have out of state wineries come to California and Lodi to buy our fruit and put Lodi on the label not the county of San Joaquin or Sacramento,” Fry said in a Jan. 5 letter to TTB officials. “For Napa AVA or Sonoma AVA it is not a marketing problem for their because their counties are Napa and Sonoma County.”

Napa and Sonoma should create their own ordinances if they want to control their fruit and AVAs, he said.
Siegel and Hinman stressed in their 2016 letter the proposal does not affect winemakers who apply for certificates of label of approval for wines sourced with grapes from the same state where the bottles are also being produced.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau are accepting comments on the proposed “Rule 160B” until 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday, Jan. 9, at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=TTB-2016-0005-0114

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