Sen. Charles Schumer spoke at a Finger Lakes winery late last week and said many wine labels take too long to get approved. He was especially concerned about labels submitted to TTB by New York’s more than 300 wineries. MPNnow.com reported:
the delays — sometimes up to three months — result in wineries not being able to market their wines. The Washington, D.C., agency’s staff has been shaved by budget cutbacks over the last decade while the tide of label-approval applications from wineries nationwide almost doubled from 69,000 in 1999 to 132,500 in 2010, said spokesman Tom Hogue. “And that doesn’t take into account any of the time going back and forth with applicants to make sure labels they’ve submitted actually meet the legal requirements,” Hogue said.
John Martini, co-owner of Anthony Road Wine Co. said:
label approval used to take a week. One label he submitted online May 12 was approved June 15, but he said he has heard horror stories of approvals taking 75 to 90 days. He said new wineries often have long delays because their labels don’t meet the specifics of the label law, which was approved after Prohibition ended. However, he said, “Every winery has a goofy TTB label story.”
The Senator’s press release, and letter to TTB, are here. Key points are:
- Many New York wineries have received rejected labels from TTB with a request to correct one issue, only to make that change and receive notification of a new correction. This creates a back and forth or ping-pong effect that can result in weeks of backlogs and headaches for these wineries, and prevents bottles from hitting the shelves. Schumer asks that the TTB clearly identify all of the issues that need to be addressed on the first rejection.
- Now New York wineries are reporting it can take at least one month to receive approval of an electronically-filed COLA application and two months for a paper application. It takes even longer in the event TTB rejects a label and it must be corrected and resubmitted to re-start the COLA process.
- For new wineries, the effect can be devastating as one winery reported waiting almost a year for label approvals which nearly kept them from opening for business this year.
- Wine industry experts estimate that as many as 10% of the labels waiting in the application process are personalized labels produced to commemorate special events like weddings and birthdays. In the past, TTB permitted wineries to simply apply once for approval of a template to ensure it contained the required regulatory and safety warnings, after which the winery could personalize the artwork on the front of the labels to suit the specific event. TTB now requires individual approval as the labels are changed to suit the occasion.
I would like to see more news about the one that took almost a year. While Sen. Schumer makes some good points it is something of a platitude to say TTB needs to handle far more than 100,000 labels per year quicker, with fewer mistakes, and with fewer people. He does not propose much by way of specific solutions. The suggestions about personalization (as at point 4 above) are not a cure-all because TTB does allow some personalization as here, and TTB probably never allowed one template approval to cover more than one brand, type or appellation.