Wine labels are governed by a number of different Federal and State legislative instruments including:
- Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act 2013
- Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regulations 1981
- Food Standards Code
- National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009
- Competition and Consumer Act 2010
- State Consumer Laws
Under the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regulations (Regulation 6), wine goods that are exported must comply with the Foods Standards Code, which includes the requirement to bear a label containing all of the Food Standards Code mandatory labelling items.
Designation (name of food) (Food Standard 1.2.2)
The Food Standards Code requires an appropriate name or description of the food on a label. There are no prescribed names but the food must convey the true nature of the product.
Use of the names “Wine”, “Sparkling Wine”, “Fortified Wine” and “Brandy” must meet the conditions outlined in the Food Standards Code and listed above under winemaking.
Wine products are defined as food containing no less than 700 mL/L (70 per cent) of wine as defined in the Standard, which has been formulated, processed, modified or mixed with other foods such that is not wine. “Wine product”, however, may not be sufficient to convey the true nature of the product. It is strongly advised that wine products with added water, colours etc., be labelled as a “Wine Based Beverage”. Exported wine products are not permitted to claim a vintage or geographical indication on labels.
Alcohol statement (Food Standard 2.7.1)
An alcohol statement is mandatory for foods containing greater than 0.5% alcohol by volume. For a food (including an alcoholic beverage) that contains more than 1.15% alcohol, it must be expressed as X% alcohol by volume or words and expressions of the same or similar effect. Additionally, an alcoholic beverage which contains more than 1.15% alcohol must not be represented as being a ‘low alcohol’ beverage.
The labelling tolerance (the difference between actual and labelled) for the alcohol statement depends on the individual product.
A wine or wine product between 1.15% and 6.5% alcohol by volume has a labelling tolerance of 0.5%.
A wine or wine product greater than 6.5% alcohol by volume has a labelling tolerance of 1.5%.
Fortified wines (which, by definition are between 15% and 22% alcohol by volume) have a labelling tolerance of 0.5%.
It is important to note; the above information relates to Australian domestic requirements only and the tolerance for the alcohol statement may differ for export markets. Further information relating to alcohol labelling tolerance for export markets can be found here and in greater depth in the relevant Export Market Guides.
Volume statement (National Trade Measurement Regulations)
Wine in standard size containers (as defined in the World Wine Trade Group Labelling Agreement), is exempt from the general requirement that measurement markings must appear on the principal display panel.
Accordingly, Australian wines may indicate the volume on any label; however, exporters should be aware of the “single field of vision” concept applicable in World Wine Trade Group member countries and the European Union.
The statement of quantity must be:
- of at least the prescribed minimum character height (refer to the table below;
- close to the name or brand of the product;
- at least 2 mm from the edges of the package;
- at least 2 mm in any direction from any graphics or written copy;
- in metric units and in clear English;
- clear and stamped or printed in distinct colour contrast to the background graphics.
(Refer to National Trade Measurement Regulations for further information).
Minimum print sizes depending on the largest dimension of the container are also mandatory. In the case of a bottle, this is the bottle height in millimetres. For a cask, it is the measurement of the longest edge. For a standard 750mL wine bottle, the minimum character height is 3.3mm.
|Largest package dimension ||Minimum print height* |
|<120 mm ||2.0 mm |
|120 to <230 mm ||2.5 mm |
|230 to <360 mm ||3.3 mm (standard 750mL bottle) |
|>360 mm ||4.8 mm |
* Minimum print height applies to the shortest character in the statement
Accepted units for the volume statement are L (litre), dL (decilitre), cL (centilitre) or mL (millilitre).
Country of origin (Food Standard 1.2.11 and Regulation 19)
A country of origin statement is mandatory. The name of the country is the only mandatory word, for example, “Wine of Australia” or “Australian Wine”. This statement must be separate from any geographical indication claim and cannot be incorporated with a state or region.
Under Regulation 19 of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regulations 1981, 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.
Name and address (Food Standard 1.2.2)
The name and business address of the Australian vendor, manufacturer, packer or importer must be placed on the label. The address must show the road or street number (if any), road or street name, suburb, town, State/Territory (or Postcode). Postal addresses, (e.g. PO Box or RSD numbers), cannot be used instead of a physical address.
An address that includes, or implies, a geographical indication could be misleading in cases where there is no other information to clearly identify the source of the wine. The Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act provides a specific exemption where a registered GI is included in a winery’s address, and the wine has been manufactured at that site. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the label address is not misleading as to the source of the wine. Registered Geographical Indications in label addresses can only be used if such use is both true and necessary.
Standard drinks (Food Standard 2.7.1)
A standard drink is the amount of beverage which contains 10 grams of ethanol, measured at 20°C. The formula for the calculation is:
- container volume (litres) x % alcohol/vol (mL/100mL) x 0.789 (specific gravity of ethanol) = the number of standard drinks.
For example, a 750mL bottle which is 14% alc/vol would be calculated:
- 0.75 x 14 x 0.789 = 8.28, rounded to one decimal place = 8.3 standard drinks.
The statement should be worded “Contains approximately 8.3 standard drinks”. Alternatively, the approved logo may be used.
Allergens statement (Food Standard 1.2.3)
From 20 December 2002, all food, including Wine and Wine Product, labelled on or after that date must carry an allergen declaration. The prescribed substances are: cereals containing gluten and their products; crustacea and their products; egg and egg products; milk and milk products; nuts and sesame seeds and their products; peanuts and soybeans and their products; added sulphites in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more; royal jelly; bee pollen; and propolis.
The following legal additives and processing aids for wine and wine products are listed as allergenic substances under the Food Standards Code:
- Added sulphites (such as SO2/PMS) in concentrations of 10mg/kg or more (preservative);
- Casein and potassium caseinate (fining agent);
- Egg white (fining agent) (including Lysozyme);
- Milk and evaporated milk (fining agent);
- Nuts (such as non-grape derived tannin that may be made from chestnuts).
The Food Standards Code was amended on 28 May 2009 exempting isinglass (fish) for labelling in wine and beer.
The actual wording of the statement is not prescribed. As a guide, FSANZ has advised that:
- the law requires a statement to the effect that the substance IS in the product, or has been used in manufacture;
- the law is not met by wording/statements such as “may contain fish or milk product”;
- the statement may be in textual form or the substance(s) simply named in a list of ingredients;
- code numbers may be used instead of the substance name, if listed in Standard 1.3.1;
- where there are added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more, allergens labelling requirements are met by claiming “contains sulphites”, without necessarily having to name the actual sulphites used.
The following examples are deemed acceptable:
- Produced with milk;
- Contains/produced with milk product;
- Produced with milk. Traces may remain;
- Produced with milk products. Traces may remain.
The appearance of words such as “casein” on its own is not considered appropriate as few consumers would know what they are without clarification.
Source of additives
Be aware that some allergenic substances can come from obscure sources. For example, some caramels are produced from wheat (gluten), and some “technical” corks may be manufactured using casein-based glues that may leach into the product.
At the time of purchase, wine manufacturers are advised to seek written advice as to the source of any additives, processing aids or packaging or other products that potentially could be the source of allergenic substances. Sources of allergenic substances could include failure to adequately clean production machinery, failure to adequately segregate allergenic substances in storage or on the production line, accidental or subversive addition of substances, or the failure of suppliers to identify such substances in their products.
Vintage, Variety and Geographical Indication (AGWA Regulations 20, 21, 22)
Vintage, variety and Geographical Indication claims are optional; however, if they are claimed Australian blending regulations apply. Refer to the Blending Rules for further advice.
Vintages, varieties and geographical indications can only be claimed on labels which meet the definition of wine. Exported “wine products” cannot make any vintage or geographical indication claims.
Geographical indications of the European Union cannot appear on Australian labels regardless of the context in which they may be used. For a list of European Geographical Indications refer to the list in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications and Other Terms.
For assistance refer to the Guide to Labelling with Geographical Indications.
Lot number (Food Standard 1.2.2)
Lot marking is primarily required for the purpose of trace back in the event of a recall for health or safety reasons. If a product is not lot marked then all product carrying the same label may be compulsorily recalled by health authorities instead of just the affected production run.
The format is not prescribed and need only have meaning to the manufacturer. It may be placed anywhere that will be visible after finished packaging, and is often stamped on the bottle at the time of bottling. A lot mark usually commences with the letter L (mandatory for the European Union market) and is often followed by the year and date of packing (for example, L9330 could mean the 330th day of 1999).
Further information for domestic labelling
Labelling item position
The Food Standards Code does not prescribe where the mandatory information must appear nor does it specify minimum print heights. All mandatory information must be legibly and prominently displayed such as to afford a distinct contrast to the background.
The labelling of mandatory information must be in English. Any information in other languages must not negate or contradict the information in English.
Brand names (or any other name) should not mislead as to the origin, age or identity of the wine. If a brand name (or business name) contains a registered geographical indication it can only be used on the label when the wine has been sourced from the relevant GI.
Regulation 17A of the Australian Grape and Wine Regulations 1981 allows for the co-existence of Australian geographical indications and trademarks which were registered by IP Australia prior to the registration of the geographical indication. Refer to the Guide to Labelling with Geographical Indications for further information.
IP Australia administers Australia’s IP rights system, specifically patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights. Trade mark registration can be applied for through the IP Australia website. The website includes a search facility which lists trade marks already registered or those pending registration (Class 33 applies to wine). If you are planning to export you may also need to register the trademark in each country or region.
Bar codes are not required by law or regulated as to size or placement. They are, however, increasingly required by wholesalers and retailers in Australia and overseas.
The 13-digit EAN (European Article Number) is the most commonly used in Australia and Europe and the only one now accepted in Canada. The USA accepts both EAN and the 12-digit UPC (Universal Product Code). The EAN system can read UPC, but the reverse does not apply.
For further information regarding either system contact GS1 Australia.
Best Before Date
A Best Before Date is mandatory on products with less than two years’ shelf life. Standard 1.2.5 of the Food Standards Code defines the “best before” date as: “The date which signifies the end of the period during which the intact package of food, if stored in accordance with any stated storage instructions, will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific qualities for which express or implied claims have been made.”
The date must appear in the format “Best Before Dec 12” (or) “Best Before 12 12” and the label must include a statement of any specific storage conditions required to ensure the food will keep for the specified period. In the case of wine and wine product, this normally would only apply where plastic or other non-glass packaging is used and where a limited shelf life (less than two years) is likely. However, if the description and presentation of the wine claims or implies certain qualities (such as freshness, drink whilst young etc.) then a “best before” date is required unless any such claims would remain valid for at least two years.
The Food Standards Code requires that all mandatory information for a wine label be re-produced on the outer carton if the product is to be offered in the carton to consumers (for example, a three-bottle presentation pack) as a consumer unit.
Under Trade Measurement (Pre-packaged Articles) Regulations, a trader who packs goods that may be resold at other outlets is required to mark the packs with their name and address or the name and address of the person for whom the goods are packed. The business address or registered business address should be used; a Post Office box number alone is not sufficient. The total volume of the inner packages or the number of packages and the volume of each (for example, 12 x 750mL) also must appear.
Cleanskins (unlabelled wine)
It is not legal to sell or export wine without all mandatory items appearing on the packaging.
Under the Food Standards Code, unlabelled bottles cannot be sold at retail to the public, but unbroken cartons can be sold if the mandatory information appears on the carton in an acceptable form. Mandatory warning declarations including allergens (which includes sulphites), however, must appear on every bottle.
Under Food Standards Code 1.2.7 – 4, a health claim must not be made in respect of alcoholic beverages.
Maps appearing on labels, brochures and advertising etc., form part of the description and presentation of the wine. If a geographical indication is named or referred to on a map, and the wine is not sourced from that GI, then it is a false or misleading label claim.
The manufacture and labelling of organic wine, whether relating to vineyard practices and/or manufacturing practices, is not specifically regulated in wine law. Certification for organic claims can be made by any of the many private organisations that perform this function.
These organic organisations are authorised by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, primarily for the purpose of export certification of agricultural products. Such certification is mandatory as part of the export approval process for all export wine claimed as ‘organic’, ‘bio- dynamic’, ‘biological’, ‘ecological’ or by any other word of similar indication.
Even if no sulphur dioxide has been added, care must be taken in claiming the wine is “sulphur or preservative free”, as sulphur dioxide can be produced by yeast. “Preservative free” should only be claimed if there are no quantifiable levels of sulphur dioxide in the wine.