Half Fill: TTB Floats Big Rule Changes For Canned Wine & Imported Spirts

By Neat Pour Staff |

Big news in the spirits and wine worlds! On Monday (7.01), the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) released a pair of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would significantly change the fill standards. What does that jumble of acronyms and legalese mean? Well, the change could result in lots more canned wine as well as an influx of hard-to-find spirits in the U.S.

The NPRM’s

In the case of spirits, the proposed change in regulations would mean that bottles could come in any size between 50 milliliters and 3.785 liters (one gallon). 

In the wine sector, the TTB proposed dropping all standards except the 50ml minimum. A note mentioned that the minimum size is dictated by practical concerns about fitting all the require info on the label.

The previous allowed sizes (50, 100, 200, 375, 750ml, 1L, 1.5L), in existence since the U.S. theoretically switched to metric in 1980, are based around a base unit of one case of 12 750ml bottles. In total, the case equalled 9L. The idea was to make computations easy—of course, tech advances have rendered these computational concerns.

Why It Matters For Wine

If passed, the change would be a big boost to the burgeoning canned wine industry. Due to the current regulations, most canned wines are currently sold in 375ml cans. (Technically, they can also be sold in those tall 250 ml cans also, but only in four-packs.) 

However, standard canning lines in the U.S. are set up for 354ml portion ie the 12oz. cans that most beers and soft drinks are sold in. Canning wine in 375ml. (12.7oz.) requires an odd (ergo far more costly) size of can and some very specific tweaks to the machinery.

The change would allow many wineries to immediately dive into the canned craze using by using easily accessible resources instead of making a pricey investment.

Why It Matters For Spirits

Currently, the U.S. regulations are at odds with the European regulations. Across the pond, distillers must use 700ml bottles per EU regs.

The result is that small and mid-sized producers often must chose one market and bottle for it. Generally speaking, distillers chose to focus on their home markets meaning that there’s less bourbon selections in Europe and less Scotch selections in the States. For companies based outside of the two sectors, the proposition is lose-lose.

New regs would open both markets to a slew of new products.

What’s Next?

As noted, these changes are still only proposals. A public comment period will be open until August 30, 2019. You can weigh in with your opinion on the wine NPRM here or the spirits NPRM here.

A final decision is expected shortly after the comment period. 

Still, the plan has one  prominent supporter. In a July 3 junket to NY’s Finger lakes wine region, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voiced his support for changing the regulations.

“We don’t have those kinds of hundred-year-old outdated ways of thinking and rulemaking,” stated Senator Schumer. “So let these guys have the freedom they need to sell what they want in the right way.”

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