Ever wonder why one can only buy certain sizes of containers for wine? 750-mL bottles, 3-L bag-in-boxes, etc.? Why in metric volumes and not Imperial? It all is due to our federal government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau at the Department of the Treasury (TTB) and history. Unlike beer and spirits, wine must be sold in precisely these volumes:
- 50 mL
- 100 mL
- 187.5 mL
- 375 mL
- 500 mL
- 750 mL
- 1 L
- 1.5 L
- 2 L
- 3 L
- and X L and up.
Sake (rice wine) can be in 300 mL and 700 mL container sizes. But wait! you cry: wine is in 250-mL cans and Tetra Paks in stores! And that is true, but you cannot purchase a single 250-mL can of wine, you must buy at least 2 or more in a pack together. That way the total volume sold together equals one of the approved volumes noted above.
Basically this arcane regulation is a product of post-Prohibition and the mafia, when volumes were not regulated and truth-in-labeling laws non-existent. But the result is that one cannot go into a store and buy an 8-fl. oz. (~250 mL) can or Tetra Pak of wine to drink at a picnic; you have to buy a pre-packed bundle instead. Or a 10-fl. oz. package (~300 mL, about 2 typical glasses of wine) unless it is sake. Those very common beverage serving sizes are a no-go.
A prominent law firm that specializes in alcohol beverage law is trying to change that for the 250-mL size with a filing of a brief in advocacy to the TTB. We would argue for the 300-mL size as well. Essentially, the market should be allowed to experiment and find packaging sizes that are most conducive to societal forces (those in favor of moderation as well as those for convenience).
We urge any readers in support of adding the 250-mL container size to the regulations go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=TTB-2018-0007 to add their comments as appropriate.
Wine in a 250 ML can – the Mystery of the TTB packaging Regulations and Solving the Problem by Amending the Regulations
“By: John Hinman and Barbara Snider
“June 3, 2019
“We are committed to rational regulation and, even though we occasionally criticize the regulators for overzealous enforcement of vague regulations, we nonetheless well understand that agency discretion is limited by the enabling regulations. Today we are encouraging the TTB to exercise their discretion (via the rule-making process) and authorize wine in a 250 ml can – the most popular size for single serve wine in use in the world today. Not a day goes by that doesn’t surface a success story about marketing wine in a can.”
Tincknell & Tincknell, Wine Sales and Marketing Consultants, added the following comments to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
“Tincknell & Tincknell, Inc., consultants in wine packaging, marketing, and sales based in Healdsburg, California, endorses the addition of both a 250-mL and 300-mL container size to the Standards of Fill for wine in Notice 176. The single-serve container segment is experiencing high growth, as is evidenced by the recent growth in sales and volume for wine in aluminum cans and Tetra Paks. Both the 250-mL and 300-mL container sizes will create more competition in the market, and will also encourage moderation of consumption if allowed to be sold individually. These sizes are widely accepted in other international markets, which will allow for U.S. wine producers to better compete in export markets. Do note that current TTB regulations permits rice wine (sake) in a 300-mL container size, setting precedent for adding it as a Standard of Fill for wine.
“The previous reasons for adding the 500-mL container size to the Standards of Fill for wine regulations apply to these additional container sizes. Consumers today are much more experienced in ascertaining serving sizes, and the shape and size of a 250-mL or 300-mL package strongly conveys the quantity expected by the consumer; the rapid growth in single-serves in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages underscores this societal and generational shift. Smaller containers can also benefit consumers in providing the precise serving-size desired and reduce the waste and lost cost of unused wine leftover in larger containers. Smaller individual packages can reduce packaging costs, trash waste, and environmental impacts.
“Please consider adding the 250-mL and 300-mL container sizes to wine Standards of Fill in the current TTB regulations.”