Australian Grape and Wine Authority's (AGWA) process for controlling the export of Australian wine is now focussed on auditing both exporters and producers, supplemented by analysis of random samples of their products.
Prior to this, all wine proposed for export was required to be submitted for approval by a panel of wine experts, with all export labels reviewed by AGWA staff. Only wines assessed to be free of faults and labels judged compliant with relevant laws were approved for export.
Following a comprehensive review, in consultation with the industry, this process was abandoned in 2012 in favour of the current system, which is more appropriate for a mature sector trading internationally in the 21st century.
Importance of a compliance regime
There are two major reasons for the establishment of any wine regulatory system:
- To protect consumers; and
- To ensure a fair trading environment for producers and exporters.
A robust and enforceable compliance regime is essential for supporting the sector’s promotional efforts. A scandal involving the misrepresentation of the provenance or composition of wine would potentially damage Australia’s reputation for producing quality wines with truthful labels. Not all wine producing countries share the reputation enjoyed by Australia. It is critical to maintain this competitive advantage.
Australia is increasingly recognised as an abundant source of regionally distinctive wines made from an array of both traditional and recently introduced grape varieties. Maintaining the integrity of region and variety claims has never been more important.
Structure of Australia’s compliance regime
Compliance with the Food Standards Code, which underpins how wine is made, and the Australian Grape Authority Act, which determines how wine can be described, is monitored through two key activities:
- The Label Integrity Program, which is a legislated program that requires the making and keeping of records throughout the wine supply chain to ensure claims made about the regional, varietal or vintage provenance of wine can be substantiated. Our audit team conducts more than 400 audits each year. Failure to make or keep adequate records can result in prosecution with penalties including custodial sentences. More on the label integrity program can be found here.
- Sampling and chemical analysis of a statistically valid sample of Australian wine. Each year, approximately 1,200 samples are collected and submitted for chemical analysis to ensure compliance with the Food Standards Code, specifically with the maximum residue limits for a range of agricultural chemicals.
In addition, AGWA protects the integrity of Australia’s wine producing areas, maintains the Register of Protected Geographical Indications and Other Terms and supports the Geographical Indications Committee – a statutory committee established to define the grape producing regions of Australia.
Consequences of non-compliance
AGWA takes its regulatory responsibilities very seriously. We provide guidance to the wine sector in order to minimise the risk of non-compliance. When significant breaches are discovered, AGWA is required to take appropriate action. The response can range from instruction to relabel non-compliant product, to the cancellation of a person’s licence to export and, in extreme cases, to prosecution. The penalties for failing to comply with the Label Integrity Program, making false or misleading label claims or exporting wines in contravention of the regulations include the possibility of imprisonment.
More details about compliance and exporting requirements can be found here.
We’re here to help
Fundamental to AGWA’s regulatory approach is our desire to assist exporters and producers to meet legislated obligations. We are here to help you comply with international wine composition and labelling requirements. As a starting point, guides to labelling can be found here.
AGWA also publishes guides on the wine production, composition and labelling requirements of 36 export markets. These guides are available free of charge to licenced exporters and to those who pay the wine grapes levy.
Melanie Clarke-Sorgini (Mon to Thurs)
Melissa McGregor (Tues to Fri)
Contact Rebecca via email here
Label Integrity Auditors:
Belinda Van Eyssen
General Manager – Regulatory Advice:
Contact Steve via email here