Although California is an excellent growing region with many fantastic wines, consumers also appreciate the experience of tasting wines from other countries. Providing foreign wines for these consumers to purchase requires cooperation with several government entities, both federal and state:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- The Tax and Trade Bureau of the Treasury Department (TTB)
- California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)
- State Board of Equalization (BOE)
First, the wine maker must be registered with the FDA, and the FDA must be provided with advance notice of any importation. The FDA makes these requirements as part of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. Customs brokers are typically hired to handle the FDA requirements and the receiving of any shipments as they come through customs. Customs brokers also hold an ABC license, which is a Type 15.
The TTB regulates all labels and requires that importers apply for an Importer’s Basic Permit. After the issuance of the Basic Permit, the importer must complete “Alcohol Dealer Registration” prior to beginning business. If the importer is planning on selling the wine that was imported using the Importer’s Basic Permit, then the importer must apply for the Wholesaler’s Basic Permit. These permits can be applied for online, and must be approved before any importation of wine. In addition to the permits mentioned, the TTB also requires that importers obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for each label. The importer must submit samples of each label to be affixed to the wine. Once the label has been approved, then the approval must be submitted with the clearance entry for an import clearance. For convenience, the process for obtaining a COLA may be done online by filing an “Application for and Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval.” For natural wine produced after December 31, 2004, and unless the country from which the wine is produced has an enological practices agreement with the U.S., the importer must obtain a certification that the procedures used in producing the wine constitute proper cellar treatment as required under the Miscellaneous Trade and Corrections Act of 2004. For more information on TTB requirements, visithttp://www.ttb.gov/itd/importing_alcohol.shtml
Once the importer has met the requirements of the federal government to import wine into the U.S., it will now have to meet California’s requirements. The first place to start is the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The ABC issues the licenses needed to import and sell the wine in California. There are primarily two types of licenses issued by the ABC for importing wine: type 09 and type 10. Both of these licenses allow the wine to come into the country, and the type 10 allows the importer to sell directly to other wholesalers or distributors. However, neither of these licenses may stand alone; they must be used in combination with another license type.
The licenses typically combined with types 09 or 10 are types 17 and 20. Type 17 allows the importer to sell wine directly to retailers, and type 20 is the Off Sale Beer & Wine license, which allows the importer to sell directly to consumers in California. Types 17 and 20 can be paired together, and are used together with either a type 09 or type 10, depending on the importers intentions. For more information on licenses obtained through ABC, visithttp://www.abc.ca.gov.
And similar to the IRS for the federal government, the State Board of Equalization requires the payment of state taxes. It also requires that the importer obtain a seller’s permit and report the shipments monthly on a designated form. If the importer also holds a winegrowers license, it will need to also include the imports on the “WineGrowers Tax Return.”