The Wine Blog

The Shutdown Showdown

October 3, 2013


It’s no secret that the Government Shutdown induced by Congress on Tuesday is causing woes across many segments. This standstill will rain on many parades as museums, national parks, and other organizations unknown to be affiliated with the government remain closed. The list of organizations that we take for granted daily is surprising, but did you know it could impact your wine life as well?

The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) is one of the many agencies shut down as of October 1st, resulting in a suspension of any reviews of alcohol beverage labels, formulas and permits until the government is up and running again and funding is reinstated.

Luckily, the TTB prepared for the worst and approved as many labels as possible before Tuesday night. They also approved 11 new Paso Robles AVAs in the nick of time. Way to go Central Coast!

They’ll have a tough time preparing for the sizable backlog of approvals waiting upon their return. The TTB processes approximately 152,000 approvals a year – That’s 400 new wines per day. At two days into the Shutdown they are already 1200 approvals behind.

With approvals typically taking 45 days to process and a quickly growing backlog, label changes and new wine releases could be in for a significant delay… ie. it might be a while before we see new wines hitting the market.

Threats of bigger problems loom on the horizon if the Shutdown persists. Among these is the reauthorization of Farm Bill. If the Farm Bill is not reauthorized or extended by the government in 2013, it will cause farms to revert to 1948 laws, which would limit planting and increase subsidy prices. This would impact not only vintners, but all aspects of agriculture. Prices for consumers may double ($7 is a lot for milk).

Immigration Reform also remains a priority, as current immigration laws (H2-A) have caused labor shortages among wineries, leading to crop destruction and financial losses.


Still befuddled? These links may answer some of the nagging questions:

Wine in America

Official TTB website

Lehrman Beverage Law

Dr. Vino’s Blog