Who's afraid of the TTB?
You may have guessed this, but alcohol is one of the most highly regulated industries in the United States. If you're a youthful-looking consumer, you'll be well aware of this when the clerk at your neighborhood supermarket or liquor store, or the bartender at your favorite watering hole inspects your ID to make sure you're of age. If you receive wine club shipments from us, you'll be aware of the indication on the box that the recipient of the wines must provide proof of 21+ years of age. These laws and regulations are set and enforced primarily at the state level, with penalties and specific requiremetns varying from state to state.
As a producer of wine, we're regulated on our end as well, both on a federal and state level. The federal agency tasked with overseeing us is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or the TTB for short. As the name suggests, the group regulates producers of alcohol and tobacco products, but also firearms and the fuel alcohol we're all familiar with from putting in our cars. They aren't tasked with regulating sales, but with regulating production, importation, distribution, and labelling, according to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, which went into effect in 1935 and was ammended in 1988. Ultimately, the TTB reports up to the Department of the Treasury.
Because alcohol is an intoxicant, the reporting on it is pretty comprehensive. We file reports with the TTB quarterly to let them know how much bulk wine we have on site, how much bottled inventory in case goods storage, and during harvest, how much volume is fermenting. We keep track down to the bottle and the gallon. If we lose 20 gallons while we're filtering-- we report it. If we remove a case from storage to bring to the tasting room, we report it. We pay taxes for the privilege of working in this industry, so we make sure that each drop is accounted for.
The TTB also approves every label that we put on a bottle to ensure that what we're putting out to you, our customers, is accurate and that we've included all the required information regarding alcohol content, safety warnings, and volume in bottle. This is true for every label you see on the wine shelf-- somebody in the TTB has taken a close look at it and given it the okay. Given the number of labels that must come across their desks every day, they do a pretty remarkable job of getting the yea or nay back in a timely manner. They also do a good job of laying out comprehensive information on how to comply with their regulations on their website. They even have a section for consumers, which is pretty interesting if you want more information about the functions of the TTB. You can even sign up for their newsletter if you find yourself fascinated with this governmental bureau.
At the end of the day, most of these regulations are for consumer protection. And even though the number of regulations can seem daunting, doing the homework and asking the questions to make sure that we're in compliance not only helps us be more informed producers, it helps us understand some of the history of our industry here in the US.