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Don't Miss Out! Weigh in on the Wine Labeling Debate

Weigh in on the Wine Labeling Debate

As I’ve noted previously, we’ve been given a rare opportunity to tell the federal government whether wine, beer, and spirits producers should be required to provide ingredient, nutritional, and other information.  I explained what was occurring and provided tips on how to submit a comment.

I followed my own advice and weighed in on the wine labeling debate. Here’s the comment I submitted to the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency requesting public comment:

I appreciate the opportunity to comment on whether ingredients and other information should be required on beverage labels. As a wine consumer, I would welcome more transparency about what I’m drinking. However, as a wine writer and blogger, I also recognize the burden any increased requirements would have on the industry, particularly small and new producers.

Therefore, TTB needs to carefully balance both public and industry concerns.  With that in mind, I suggest the following:

1.       At least some information, such as recommended serving size, ingredients in the final product, and major food allergen information should be included on the label and/or otherwise available. Consumers need to be able to make informed decisions about what they ingest and to compare these beverages to other products. TTB will need to determine whether additional information, such as items used in a beverage’s manufacturing process, would be helpful to consumers or misleading.

2.      TTB should consider different requirements based on the size of the producer. For example, the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that calorie counts be included on menus applies only to chain food establishments with more than 20 locations. Small wineries, breweries, cideries, and meaderies could thus be exempted from certain additional labeling requirements. They could still voluntarily opt to include this information. Some small artisanal wineries are already doing so to differentiate themselves from the more commercial producers, which are more likely to use additives.

3.      TTB should review the impact the European Union’s new labeling requirements have had there and any lessons learned.

4.      While TTB is looking at wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages, these are three different industries with different manufacturing processes. They should not necessarily be subject to the same labeling requirements.

5.      TTB needs to clarify whether and how any new requirements would affect consumer legal rights. For instance, while the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) imposed new privacy and security mandates on certain entities, it specifically barred any private right of action; i.e., patient-victims could not use HIPAA as the basis of a lawsuit against a violator. If TTB imposes new mandates, would consumers adversely affected by a non-compliant producer – such as an individual who suffers an allergic reaction to a non-disclosed allergen – be able to use the violation of the new TTB rule as a basis to bring a private right of action against that producer? What recourse would consumers have?

6.      While the specific questions TTB posed in its announcement soliciting information pertain to labeling, the announcement itself refers to both labeling and advertising. Hence, TTB should give careful consideration to advertising, as well.

Thank you for your consideration.

Opinions Sharply Divergent

I took what I consider a balanced approach to consumers’ and industry’s competing interests. I also pointed to some legal precedents. If TTB is going to take the time to consider promulgating revised rules on beverage labeling, the rule itself should be crafted carefully and as clearly as possible, lest it get mired down in non-substantive issues and run the risk of reversal with every new administration.

And TTB certainly has its work cut out for itself. I’ve read many of the comments and attended one of the listening sessions, and opinions differ tremendously. There are consumers and others who very much want more labeling information, industry representatives who say it will greatly curtail their offerings or put them out of business, and public health advocates who also took the time to chastise TTB for not acting sooner.

This is all the more reason to make sure that you don’t miss out. Weigh in on the wine labeling debate.  Your voice counts. It takes only a few minutes.  As TTB noted in the listening session, “all comments will be considered as part of the rulemaking process.”

But if you have any interest in influencing what information would be available on wine, beer, and spirit labels, you better hurry. The deadline is March 29, 2024.

Weigh in on the Wine Labeling Debate

What direction do you think TTB will take? Who will be the “winners” and “losers” in this debate? Let us know your thoughts. Send us a message at


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