Early on, Oregon’s winemakers realized they had something special here, something distinct and deserving of distinction in a crowded marketplace. They didn’t have to, but Oregon’s wine industry pressed for labeling regulations stricter than those required by the federal government. It was — and is — a matter of integrity. Recognizing the importance of place and variety in the creation of wines, Oregon’s labeling regulations reflect the approach of its winemakers since the industry’s founding days: principled, honest, clear.
LABELING REGULATIONS DOWNLOADS
Oregon maintains some of the strictest wine labeling regulations of any state regarding declaration of grape origin and varietal.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) developed a set of federal wine labeling regulations to ensure the integrity of alcoholic beverages in the marketplace and to accurately inform customers. The TTB has created an informative brochure about these federal regulations. In addition to the TTB federal rules, Oregon has enacted stricter regulations to ensure the integrity and quality of Oregon wine.
Appellation of Origin
The most influential additions to the TTB wine labeling regulations in Oregon are the provisions about declaring a wine’s appellation of origin. Federally, if a wine label lists a country, state or county as an appellation, at least 75% of the wine must be produced from grapes grown in the place named, and at least 85% if the label lists a specific American Viticultural Area (AVA) such as Napa Valley.
In Oregon, if the label claims or implies “Oregon,” an Oregon county, or an AVA wholly within Oregon, 100% of the grapes must be from Oregon and 95% from that appellation of origin.
Exceptions to this rule apply to wines declaring cross-border AVAs, such as the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Gorge, for which AVA labeling may follow laws of either state. Washington State follows the TTB’s guidelines of 85%. However, 100% of the grapes must come from the two states.
Oregon also has stricter regulations than other U.S. regions when it comes to labeling the varieties used in a wine. Federal regulation states that at least 75% of grapes used to make a wine must be of the declared variety in an identified appellation of origin. In Oregon, 90% or more of the wine must be from the named variety, including Oregon’s most widely produced wines: Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc and 50 other varieties known to grow in Oregon.
However, there are 18 grape varieties exempted from Oregon’s 90% minimum requirement for varietal labeling and allowed to be blended with up to 25% other varieties. These include: Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, Semillion, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. These varieties have a long history of being used for blending in their respective European regions, and the exemption allows vinification following in their historical tradition.
By making the regulations regarding declaration of appellation of origin and varietals stricter than the federal regulation, the Oregon wine industry is able to protect and properly represent the state’s terroir, and therefore its quality. For additional information on Oregon wine labeling regulation read this document released by the Oregon Winegrowers Association.
In addition to the implementation of stricter labeling rules, Oregon was also an original signatory of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin, a set of principles shared by 19 wine regions across the world aimed at educating consumers about the importance of location to winemaking. To learn more about this program visit www.wineorigins.com.