What is ‘honey wine’ under the IRC?

Honey wine is classified under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (IRC), as an “agricultural wine.”  Agricultural wine is made from the fermentation of an agricultural product other than the juice of the fruit. (See 27 CFR 24.200 and 24.203.) The production standards under 27 CFR part 24 for honey wine apply only to domestic products.

The IRC does not allow for the use of coloring or flavoring materials (other than hops) in standard honey wine. (See 26 U.S.C. 5387 and HW14 for more information.) Furthermore, wine spirits may not be added to standard honey wine, and standard honey wine may not contain more than 14 percent alcohol by volume. The IRC does provide for the production of wine specialty products that are made from a base of honey wine. These products are not standard agricultural wines, but are instead classified under the IRC regulations as “other than standard” (OTS) wines. (See 27 CFR 24.218.)

What is ‘honey Wine’ under the FAA Act labeling regulations?

Under the regulations implementing the labeling provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), the standards of identity for wine made from the fermentation of agricultural products other than fruit are set forth in 27 CFR 4.21(f). Pursuant to these regulations, a product designated as “honey wine” must be derived wholly (except for sugar, water, or added alcohol) from honey. Wines designated as “honey wine” under 27 CFR part 4 also may contain hops, consistent with the levels set forth in part 24. TTB allows the designation “mead” to be used in lieu of “honey wine.” (See HW6.)

Certain wines fermented from honey that do not meet the standards of identity under § 4.21(f) fall under the standards set forth in 27 CFR 4.21(h), and thus must be designated as “imitation” or “other than standard” (OTS) wines. Other specialty products do not fall under any of the standards of identity in part 4 and must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition. (See 27 CFR 4.34(a).)

Do I need to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for my Mead?

The FAA Act generally requires that a bottler obtain a certificate of label approval (COLA) from TTB prior to bottling wine. A bottler may obtain a certificate of exemption from label approval from TTB upon establishing that the wine will not be sold, shipped, or otherwise introduced in interstate or foreign commerce. Importers are required to obtain a COLA from TTB prior to removing wine in containers from customs custody for consumption.

The FAA Act and its implementing regulations do not apply to wine that contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume; thus mead with an alcohol content of less than 7 percent alcohol by volume is not subject to the COLA requirement. However, please note that all wine removed from wine premises is subject to TTB wine labeling requirements contained in 27 CFR 24.257 (or 27 CFR 24.259 for containers larger than 4 liters). (See HW4 and HW5 for more information about the labeling of these wines.)