International shipping: Do you need an import wine license?
As a wine importer you are invariably passionate about your products, but you may be less enthusiastic about navigating the rules and regulations involved in international shipping. An import wine licence, for example, is a key part of successfully importing your wines. So what is an import wine license, and how do you get one?
Before diving into the import wine license let us first get familiar with why you’re going to need one and the bodies involved with getting you one. Regulations and licenses can differ between states and countries, so here’s an example of how it works in the US.
The US is an attractive market for wine producers, with the market expected to grow 9.14% annually. To get an import wine license and successfully import wine into the US, you will need to become familiar with the regulations around alcohol distribution. Alcoholic beverages fall mainly under the remit of three agencies in the US:
The US ‘three-tier’ system regulates how alcoholic products are taxed and distributed. Additionally, each state has different alcohol distribution and imported wine license regulations that you will need to meet. Broadly, states can be divided into ‘control states’ with state-run alcohol distribution, and ‘permit states’ where licensed private companies can distribute alcohol. The three tiers are:
Once you’re familiar with the relevant regulations, the next step is to fill in all the paperwork. Here are the key steps to prepare for getting your import wine license and successfully importing your beverages:
Suppliers must register with the FDA. This applies if you produce, process, pack or hold alcoholic beverages that will be consumed in the US. You must renew your registration bi-annually. you will also need to register as an alcohol dealer, and hand in an ‘ Alcohol Dealer Registration’ form.
Importers of wine or other alcohol also need to provide a ‘ Prior Notice of Imported Foods’. Foreign producers must engage a US-based importer to represent their brand in the US. Hillebrand Gori can act as the US agent for FDA registration and file the Notice of Imported Foods on the behalf of foreign suppliers. Contact the Hillebrand Gori office in your local country for help with your registration.
After you have your import wine license Importer’s Permit, you will need to get a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the TTB. You need a COLA certificate for each wine product or label you plan to import.
The Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act (CBMA) allows importers to pay reduced taxes on eligible allocations of wine, spirits and beer. From 2023, CBMA will be administered by the TTB rather than the CBP, and will operate on a refund system. Read our article to find out more about how you can save money using the CMBA. The new system is now live, so you can also check how it will work here.
Your wine might need a certificate of age or origin to be released from customs custody. For wine, you need to obtain a certificate of age or origin if this is required by the appropriate foreign government. These countries include: France, Jamaica, Portugal and Spain. You can find more information on the TTB site.
You must also meet the requirements around cellar practices. This applies to any wine produced after Dec 31st 2004. Some countries are exempt, you can check to see if this applies to your business here.
Generally, to go from starting a wine business to successfully importing products, you will need to have reviewed and identified your:
Each country has its own regulations, and you’ll need to understand them to import your wine successfully. Using the US as an example of a popular wine import market, you can get an idea for the steps involved in getting an import wine license for your products.
We know that getting an import wine license and importing wine into a new market or state can be confusing, which is why wherever your products begin or end their journey, we’re here to help. Get in touch about the next steps for shipping to the US, or request a freight quote easily with our online form.