07.03.19

SCHUMER REVEALS: CANNED WINE IS HOTTEST NEW TREND BUT FINGER LAKES WINERIES ARE MISSING OUT ON BARRELS OF BUSINESS DUE TO BURDENSOME CAN SIZE & LABEL RESTRICTIONS; SENATOR CALLS ON FEDS TO CUT THROUGH BUREAUCRATIC RED TAPE, LIFT CANNING RESTRICTIONS, & UNLEASH WINE PRODUCTION IN REGION

Finger Lakes Wineries, Like Fox Run Vineyards, Are Held Back From Hottest New Trend, Canned Wine; Vineyards Hindered From Selling Wine In Traditional Cans & Struggle To Have Products Approved For Market, Missing Out On Major Potential Revenue

Schumer Urges TTB To Eliminate Can Size Restrictions & Change Burdensome Labeling Process To Unlock Finger Lakes Winery Industry & Boost Regional Economy 

Schumer To TTB: Unnecessary Regs Cause Rochester-Finger Lakes Wine Industry To Sour; They Should Be Canned!

Standing at Fox Run Vineyards in Yates County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a multifaceted effort to boost the wine industry in the Rochester Finger-Lakes Region and across Upstate New York. With summer in full swing, it’s no secret that canned wine is the newest and hottest trend on the wine market. However, the Finger Lakes vineyards are not able to maximize the trend’s potential. Schumer explained that current Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations prevent vineyards like Fox Run and Three Brothers Winery and Estates from selling wine in normal, regular sized cans, similar to beer. To address the issue and unlock the potential revenue for the Finger Lakes Winery Industry, Schumer urged TTB to allow flexibility in Standards of Fill regulations that are preventing Rochester-Finger Lakes wine producers from selling wine in traditional can sizes. Currently, per TTB restrictions, wine can only be sold in less popular can formats such as the 12.7 oz can, meanwhile, the popular 12 oz can is prohibited and the popular 8.4 oz can is only allowed to be sold in groups of 3 or 4, and not individually. Additionally, Schumer called on TTB to reduce costly wine labeling restrictions that burden local producers with unintended red tape. Schumer explained that TTB removing these bureaucratic hurdles would unshackle producers across the state, leading to even further growth.  

“Even though it has a $4.8 billion impact on New York, TTB is leaving New York’s wine industry hanging on the vine, with outdated rules and restrictions stopping it from reaching its potential. As canned wine continues to become more and more popular, there’s just no good reason why wine producers, like Fox Run Vineyards, shouldn’t be able to capitalize and sell their products in the most popular-sized cans, especially when studies have shown that lifting these unnecessary restrictions would lead to even further economic growth,” said Senator Schumer. “Similarly, the burdensome and Byzantine TTB label approval process is bogging down our Rochester-Finger Lakes producers and stopping new products from hitting the shelves in a timely manner. That’s why I’m saying to the TTB: cut through this bureaucratic red tape, take these regulations that aren’t helping anybody and can ‘em, and uncork the full potential of the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.”

Schumer explained that while wine sold in cans is an increasingly growing consumer market, current TTB Standards of Fill now hamstring Rochester-Finger Lakes Wine producers, like Fox Run Vineyards and Three Brothers Winery & Estates, by preventing them from selling wine in popularly-sized cans including 12 oz and 8.4 oz. Even though TTB regulations allow beer to be sold in cans of any size, TTB regulations only permit wine and hard cider above 6.9% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to be sold in less popular can formats such as the 12.7 oz can and only permit the popular 8.4 oz cans to be sold in a 3 or 4 pack, but not individually.

Schumer argued that these can size regulations are tightly restricting producers’ ability to sell their product, and in turn, restricting their ability to hire new employees and grow their businesses. For example, Schumer pointed to a recent wine consumer survey by WICResearch.com, which concluded “the total wine market will grow in order to satisfy consumer preferences,” if TTB were to permit sales of wine-in-a-can in a single 250ml size, which the survey also revealed is the single-serve size most popular with consumers. Similarly, in comments submitted to TTB, WineAmerica, a prominent trade association for American wineries, urged the bureau to not only allow the sale of single 8.4 oz cans, but also allow the sale of 12 oz cans, because they are less expensive and easier to source than the 12.7 oz cans. Schumer explained that while beer and soft drink producers enjoy a ready supply of 12 oz cans, New York wineries have reported to him as having to wait up to six months to source 12.7 oz cans because they are less commercially viable. Moreover, Schumer said that 12.7 oz cans are often more expensive and require wine producers to buy-in-bulk, which can be cost-prohibitive for smaller wine producers.

Schumer said that in its Proposed Rulemaking 182, TTB is now reviewing whether to eliminate these can size restrictions and allow wine to be sold in any can sized greater than 50 ml, or at a minimum, examining whether to eliminate the restriction against using popularly-sized cans including the 12 oz cans and individual 8.4 oz cans, among others. Schumer announced his strongest possible support for the lifting of these regulations, so that Fox Run Vineyards and other Upstate wine and cider producers can sell their products in more traditional packaging.

Schumer explained that Fox Run Vineyards and Three Brothers Winery & Estates are two Rochester-Finger Lakes Region wineries who can some of their wine and want to can more of it, but are hampered by the current federal canning restrictions. Fox Run Vineyards canned a selection of its wine last year, but was forced to use the larger 12.7 oz cans, which made it more expensive than if the company could have used the standardized 12 oz cans. Fox Run Vineyards had also hoped to sell individual 8.4 oz cans, due to their popularity, but was prevented by the TTB restrictions. Similarly, last year, Three Brothers Winery had to wait for 6 months before receiving a shipment of empty 12.7 oz cans. Unlike the ubiquitous 12 oz cans, the 12.7 oz cans are significantly less commercially viable as well as more expensive for producers. The result of these restrictions is that most Upstate wineries are unable to take full advantage of the hot wine-in-can market, preventing growth and expansion.

Schumer also called on TTB to adjust wine labeling requirements, so as to decrease the regulatory hurdles producers have to jump over. Schumer said that under Notice 176, TTB is considering changes to modernize and streamline its labeling and related regulations to improve understanding of TTB’s regulatory requirements and make compliance easier and less burdensome for industry members. Schumer said these regulatory approvals are required prior to nearly every pivotal step in operating a winery, including before a winery can make a new product, or label and sell a new product. Schumer argued the current myriad patchwork of regulations creates unintended confusion and, oftentimes, costly delays as wineries wait on TTB approvals. Schumer urged TTB to do everything in its power to streamline and modernize these regulations, starting with the finalization of Notice 176.

Schumer was joined by Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards, Erica Paolicelli, Co-owner of Three Brother Winery & Estates and War Horse Brewing Co., Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica and the National Association of American Wineries and local officials.

Jim Trezise, President, WineAmerica, and the National Association of American Wineries said, "Senator Schumer has for decades been a strong supporter of the New York wine industry, and this is just the latest example. Wine offered in cans is one of the hottest trends in our industry, and the flexibility of packaging will help our producers sell more wine and employ more people. As always, we thank him for his leadership and support."

Currently, New York State’s grape and wine industry is composed of more than 1,630 family vineyards, 400 wineries, and almost 40,000 acres of cropland. Specifically, the Rochester-Finger Lakes region is home to 327 grape growers. Schumer said that the New York grape crop alone is valued at over $52 million and generates $4.8 billion in economic benefits annually for the state and therefore, further growth in the canned wine market is absolutely critical.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to TTB appears below.

Dear Acting Administrator Ryan,

I write to request the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) take action to first eliminate certain Standards of Fill regulations that now block our wine producers from reaching new customers by selling wine in popularly desired cans while also reducing costly labeling regulations that burden producers with unintended red tape. 

Wine sold in cans is an increasingly growing consumer market, but current TTB’s Standards of Fill regulations hamstring U.S. wine producers by prohibiting them from selling wine in popularly-sized cans including 12 oz (355 ml) and individual 8.4 oz (250ml) cans.  While TTB regulations allow beer to be sold in any sized can, TTB regulations will only permit wine and cider above 6.9% ABV to be sold in less popular can formats such as the 375 ml (12.7 oz) can and only permit the popular 250 ml cans to be sold in a 3 or 4 pack, but not individually.  These can size restrictions are limiting producers ability to sell their product, and in turn to hire additional employees, and grow their businesses.  For example a recent wine consumer survey by WICResearch.com concluded “the total wine market will grow in order to satisfy consumer preferences,” if TTB permitted sales of wine-in-a-can in a single 250ml size, which the survey revealed is the single-serve size most popular with consumers.  New York wineries have sought to not only use single 250 ml cans but also allow use of 12 oz (355 ml) cans because they are less expensive and easier to source than the 12.7 oz (375ml) can.  While beer and soft drink producers enjoy a ready supply of 12 oz cans, New York wineries have reported having to wait up to six months to source 12.7 oz (375 ml) cans because they are less commercially available.  Moreover, 375 ml cans are often more expensive and require wine producers to buy-in-bulk which is often cost-prohibitive for smaller wine producers. 

In Proposed Rulemaking 182, the TTB is now considering whether to eliminate these can size restrictions and permit wine to be sold in any sized can greater than 50 ml or at a minimum to eliminate the restriction against using popular-sized cans including the 12 oz (355ml), individual 8.4oz (250 ml) cans, and others.  I strongly support removing these size restrictions so that wine and cider producers can use popular sized cans and urge the TTB to finalize and implement these changes. 

Similarly, under Notice 176, TTB is considering changes to modernize and streamline its labeling and related regulations to improve understanding of TTB’s regulatory requirements and make compliance easier and less burdensome for industry members.  These regulatory approvals are required prior to nearly every pivotal step in operating a winery including before a winery can make a new product, or label and sell a product.  However, the current myriad patchwork of regulations create unintended confusion and often costly delays as wineries wait on receiving TTB approvals to produce or sell and new product. I therefore support streamlining and modernizing these regulations and urge the TTB to finalize and implement these revisions. 

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

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