Understanding US Wine Importing Laws and Regulations


Traditionally, when we think of wine lovers we think of people from Italy or France. Many regions in these countries have been making wine for centuries, so it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that this is the case. These aren’t the only wine-loving countries though – there are wine enthusiasts all over the world these days. In fact, many non-traditional countries – places like Australia, Canada, and right here in the US – are now making some great wines to rival the established, Old World ones. Americans love their wine, and while they’re proud to support homegrown varieties, they also import a lot of foreign wines as well. If you’re thinking about getting in on this lucrative business, here are some legal considerations you should keep in mind.

It Always Starts with the Paperwork

I haven’t met too many people that enjoy paperwork, but if you want to be able to import some nice refreshing varieties of wine you need to be up to speed with this. It’s a bit of work, but it’s worth it to bring a nice, cool bottle of wine to your wine-loving customers. I’m already salivating at the prospect, and if you are too, just don’t forget that a wine cooler is better for your wine than a fridge!

So, back to the subject at hand. Exactly which types of paperwork do you need to be familiar with to import wine? It’s a fairly lengthy list. You need an employment identification number, a federal importer basic permit, a certificate of label application, a state license, an FDA product registration, and a customs continuous bond. Don’t be discouraged though – most of this is fairly easy to obtain, but it does require a little bit of work.

Some Basic Sales Terms You Need to Know

Once you’ve sorted out all of the basic paperwork discussed above you still need to work out sales terms with your customers. It’s very different selling to actual consumers than selling to retailers. As an importer, it’s most likely that you’ll be selling to retailers, so here are some basic sales terms you should understand. The simplest way for an importer to conduct their business is Ex Cellar – this usually means that the buyer picks up the product from you and they are responsible for the goods as soon as they take possession. Another way to do business is FOB, or free on board; this means the seller becomes responsible for all risks in transport once the goods have been loaded for their final destination. As an importer, this is typically your best option.

The Dreaded Duties and Taxes

Once you’ve determined who’s responsible for the goods in transit, the only thing left is to determine who’s going to be paying the dreaded duties and taxes. As an importer, this responsibility is probably going to fall on your shoulders initially, but most importers will pass these costs along to the buyer. Wine is normally taxed per liter, and that amount will vary depending on the type of wine that’s being imported.