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How to Judge a Wine by the Label…According to the TTB

The article: Judge Finds Winemakers’ Defamation Suit against Blogger Hollow can be found on Courthousenews.com published August 19th. In a nutshell, the Wine Blogger was not found guilty of defaming a wine subscription business. Simply google this article when you need something to take your mind off things.

This article was the muse to my September education piece since I needed to focus on something other than making Rosé while being mandatorily evacuated. 2020. Emphasis on the period.

In the spirit of this educational piece, some may view this information as atypical. You pick up a wine bottle and it seems so simple… but really just getting you to take it off the shelf is the first challenge. It is easier to judge a book by its cover since you can flip through the pages and read the ending. Analyzing a wine can be much more complicated with the minimal text that is currently provided on the label.

#First Step- Learn how to read a wine label based off the regulations required by TTB

Go to TTB.gov, find “TTB Audiences” on the header and select “Consumer Corner.”

Then select “Alcohol Beverage Labeling and Advertising.” For this article, read “How to Read a Wine Label” if needed. Be prepared to enter the rabbit hole.

Push the visual aspects of wine labels to the back burners and understand that searching for detailed information about wine takes work. It can be exhaustive, especially if the label is not from a known winery source or recognized wine brand name.

#Second Step- How to enter the Rabbit Hole of Wine Labeling: Search https://www.ttb.gov/labeling/cola-public-registry After finding this site, select “Search the Public COLA Registry.” https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicSearchColasBasic.do

What does a COLA actually mean? COLA stands for Certificate of Label Approval. It is required by all bottlers to submit a label for approval. It gives consumers basic information that is required to be stated on the label. Educate yourself with the categories that TTB calls out. You can press the: question mark in red circle

For ease of the first example, I included my small wine brand Wander-Must. When you search with the dates in the screenshot and only use my name wander-must (with the check on either selected) you will come to the wines I got label approvals for. Click the TTB ID Number and you will see each call out. Notice all the labels have the same vendor information number and also the same bond BW-CA-6528 which is tied to a specific address at Owl Ridge Wine Services. With this search, you can see that I make wander-must at a Custom Crush.

This really is a Pandora box once again. Click the (question mark in red circle ) marks over the data fields to learn the descriptions and venture into the advance search when you’re ready with a field like the “vendor code”. I have found this the most useful tool when searching with a ten year date span to show brands bottled at that common location. Some brands bottle at co-op/custom crush locations and get their own bond number since they are a producer and share the space. This can be noticed when you start to recognize there are the same physical addresses used under the Plant Registry/Basic Permit/Brewers No (Principal Place of Business):

All in the spirit of education use this TTB tool to better understand where wines are bottled and what other information you can surmise. It is especially useful when looking at wine brands you are unfamiliar with. First try with the brand name, or look at the Produced & Bottled by location on a label and enter the name used there.

Happy searching about the information of a wine label, always here if you have any questions or comments. Cheers!

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