Although widely enjoyed and consumed, wine remains one of the most regulated products in the United States. Given such tight regulations, releasing your wine can involve overcoming several hurdles. One universal and necessary aspect of the regulation process is obtaining a certification/exemption of label approval (abbreviated as COLA). Yet, there are some circumstances in which wine may need pre-COLA approval. These circumstances depend on a case-by-case basis, based on the ingredients or blend of the wine.
“Pre-COLA approval” involves a formula approval that must be submitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In some cases, a laboratory sample analysis is required alongside the formula approval. Pre-COLA approval is typically needed for non-beverage wines, such as cooking wines, and wines that use unique ingredients that contrast from most wine products.
The vast majority of wine products can go immediately into the COLA application without any problem. However, if you want to sell wine with unique ingredients, you may need pre-COLA approval. For example, wines made with hemp ingredients or wines made from products other than fruit juice will require formula approval. As policy in the TTB changes with time, be aware that new regulations may come in the future.
The TTB makes distinctions on pre-COLA approval depending on whether the wine is domestic or imported. Domestic wines tend to need fewer laboratory sample analyses compared to imported wines. However, imported non-beverage wines typically do not need pre-COLA approval, whereas domestic non-beverage wines do.
Formula approval is required for wines that: are made from products other than the juice of fruit (otherwise known as agricultural wines), aperitif wine, imitation wine, rice wine, saké, substandard wine, vermouth wine, wine made from a blend of different kinds of products (such as honey), wine containing hemp ingredients, wine containing thujone, among others.
Keep in mind that protocol for pre-COLA approval may differ based on whether the wine is domestic or foreign. Although generally, foreign wines tend to need more laboratory sample analyses than domestic wines, some domestic wines, such as thujone-containing wines, require a laboratory sample analysis.
Pre-COLA approval may not be necessary for most, but if you want to release a wine or non-beverage wine product that will need Pre-COLA approval, then you must be prepared to submit your formula and/or laboratory sample to the TTB for analysis. However, doing so may be difficult for those unfamiliar with the process of alcohol registration. Our attorneys at Alcoba Law Group are available to assist you if you need help with Pre-COLA approval or any other aspect of alcohol regulation and licensing. For any further questions or inquiries, we welcome you to contact us at your convenience.
Written by: David Sacasa Ⓒ 2021 Alcoba Law Group P.A.
Picture Credits: Miri Paez Bolet.
Reviewed by: Ruben Alcoba