Wine labels are governed by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act 2013 and Regulations, the Food Standards Code, the National Measurement Act and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
This is an example of a typical Australian wine label. Refer to the Compliance Guide for detailed information about mandatory and optional label requirements.
The Winemakers' Federation (WFA) recommends that all Australian winemakers include a voluntary pregnancy warning on labels of wine sold in Australia. This initiative is not mandatory but is highly recommended. Further information can be found on the WFA website: www.wfa.org.au/labelling
If any claims are made or implied on wine labels, records, commercial documents or in advertisements with regard to vintage, variety or Geographical Indication, the blending regulations apply. Below is a table that provides a summary of the blending rules. Please refer to the Regulations for the specific rules.
Any claim must be listed in descending order of its proportion in the blend.
|| Geographical Indication
|| 95% (min 5%)**
* Each variety named in the description and presentation must be present in greater proportion in the composition of the wine than any variety that is not named.
** Maximum of 3 regions can be claimed.
A vintage is the year in which the grapes were harvested. In the case of fruit harvested in December the following calendar year is the effective vintage year.
Only those grape varieties recognised by one of the following organisations are permitted to be claimed on Australian wine labels:
- OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine)
- UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants)
- IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute)
The OIV List of Vine Varieties and their Synonyms permitted for use by Australia can be viewed here.
For the purpose of determining the proportion of the varieties, the quantity of products used for possible sweetening and cultures of micro-organisms, not exceeding a total of 50ml/L (5%), is excluded.
Labelling ‘Cabernets’ and “Pinots”
Many years ago, the term ‘Cabernets’ was defined for use on Australian wine labels through the inclusion of the term as a traditional expression on the (then) Register of Protected Names.
The original definition on the Register of Protected Names for ‘Cabernets’ allowed for the term to be used to describe any combination of the varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Ruby Cabernet – provided those varieties contributed at least 85% of the blend.
In 2003, the term was omitted from the register in response to industry requests to be able to use the term to indicate a ‘Bordeaux blend’ of varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
For labelling, the context in which the term ‘Cabernets’ is being used should clearly be defined on the label; whether it is used in the context of a blend of Cabernet varieties (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Ruby Cabernet), or to indicate a blend of traditional Bordeaux varietals (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot).
In the latter case the use of the term “Cabernets” would be acceptable provided the “Bordeaux varieties” comprise at least 85% of the blend but, to avoid misleading consumers, at least one of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc must make a contribution to the blend.
Regulation 20 of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regulations 1981 requires that when one grape variety name is used on a wine label, the wine must be made from at least 85% grapes of that variety. For the term ‘Cabernets’ this means that its use in conjunction with a grape variety name, for example ‘Shiraz’, would only be acceptable if the wine was made from at least 85% Shiraz grapes.
Under the bilateral agreement on wine trade between Australia and the European Union, ‘Cabernets’ is not a term authorised for labelling. Accordingly, local authorities in the European Union are likely to reject the importation of wine bearing the term.
‘Cabernet’ can be used as a synonym for Cabernet Sauvignon but not for Cabernet Franc or any combination of those two varieties. Cabernet Franc must always be considered a separate variety and be named in full. For example: ‘Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc’, or ‘Cabernet/Merlot/Cabernet Franc’.
Similarly, Wine Australia accepts the use of the term “Pinots” to describe a blend of two or more of the varieties, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris when these varieties comprise at least 85% of the blend. Again the use of the descriptor “Pinots” in conjunction with a grape variety name, for example, “Chardonnay”, would only be acceptable if the wine was made from at least 85% Chardonnay grapes. Also, as with Cabernets, the term is not understood internationally hence care should be taken if exporting a wine labelled “Pinots”
A Geographical Indication (GI) is a word or expression used in the description and presentation of a wine to indicate the country, region or locality in which it originated or to suggest that a particular quality, reputation or characteristic of the wine is attributable to the wine having originated in the country, region or locality indicated by the word or expression.
Australia’s GIs are published in the Register of Protected GIs and Other Terms.
Country of Origin
A country of origin statement is mandatory. The name of the country is the only mandatory word, eg, “Wine of Australia” or “Australian Wine”. This statement must be separate from any geographical indication and cannot be incorporated with a state or region.
Under Regulation 19 of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act a blend of grapes that is produced in more than one country must be identified on the label with the larger percentage of the blend first and, the actual percentage of the blends. For example: “PRODUCT OF AUSTRALIA 90%; NEW ZEALAND 10%”. The 85% rule does not apply to country of origin and any percentage of imported wine in a blend must be stated.