French wine Labels in USA

Labels in USA are at least as much important as the content of the bottle. Often underestimated or just a minimal modification of the label used in Europe, the label is not the most suitable to the consumer. During my review of labels of French winemakers I notice big differences in between new world and old world labels on the retail shelves. Sales performances of French wines on the retail level might be partly explained by this differences. Far from willing to have the same labeling marketing of the new world countries, adapting a french label considering the regulation and the consumer needs is the best marketing strategy.

Before considering new label design, the TTB is provide an exhaustive guide to have proper product to import to the USA. link

In order to have access to the US market, your label needs to be priory approved by the TTB. Most of the time the Importers are in charge of this process but being prepared for this process is important. Some regulations differences between the European (OCM) and the american (TTB) regulations can be to the advantage of the marketing of the product. Too many labels makes the wine origin difficult to identify.

Please note that information like that some mandatory information can also be written on the back label, in order to improve its readability.

Mandatory information

  • Brand name : This may be the producer’s name, winery name, growing area, the name of the appellation where the wine originated, the grape variety, or a trademark name.

  • Class: or type of wine designation : It is mandatory for all wine labels these classes or type can be (one of the following as a minimum):

    • an appellation of origin

    • a varietal designation: Bottles labeled by variety must be made from at least 75% of the specified grape.

    • a regional designation example : “Bordeaux from France”

    • another designation: if none of the previous designations is applicable to the product then the following ones can apply :’Red wine’, ‘Rose wine’, ‘white wine’

  • Name and address of the bottler or producer: The words ‘bottled by’ must precede the name and address of the bottler. ‘Produced and bottled by’ is allowed if the bottler fermented and clarified at least 75% of the wine. This can also be replaced only by the name of the importer with ‘Imported by’. This is often a mention that figures on the back label.

  • In the case of French wines exported to the USA, the country of Origin must be mentioned by “Product of France” or “Produced in France”.

  • Alcohol content:  For wines under 14%, either the alcohol content or the designations ‘Table Wine’ or ‘Light Wine’ may be used; these denote an alcohol content between 7% and 14%. However, alcohol content is mandatory on any wines containing more than 14% alcohol by volume; these are often considered to be ‘fortified’.

  • Declaration of sulfites: This information appears if the sulfur level in a wine is above a certain limit. Wines labeled as ‘Organic’ will be free of any artificially added sulfites, while those labeled ‘Made with organically grown grapes’ will have some sulfites.

  • Government health warning: Any wine bottled or imported for sale or distribution in the United States must have a health warning on the label.

  • Net contents : the net content must be stated in metric units of measure (example : 750ML).

Optional information

  • Vintage date : can be shown only if an appellation of origin smaller than a country is shown. At least 95% of the grapes used must be from a particular vintage in order for that year to appear on the label.

  • Estate bottled : means that 100% of the wine came from the grape grown by winery and the winery and the vineyard must be in the same viticultural area.

  • Viticultural area appellation indicates that 85% or more of the wine was produced from grapes grown in the named area.

Conclusions

Knowing the regulations allows to have more powerful label on the american wine racks. The necessary designations to convince the consumers to buy the products are dependent of the market. Bring an standing-out label on the shelves can be a complex task but several examples showed that with a strong focus and teamwork of the importer is key to succeed on the market.

This post was written by Jean-Noël Schilling