Wine labels are governed by a number of different Federal and State legislative instruments including:
- Wine Australia Act 2013
- Wine Australia Regulations 2018
- Food Standards Code
- National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009
- Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016
- Competition and Consumer Act 2010
- State Consumer Laws
Under the Wine Australia Regulations (Section 14), 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.
Pregnancy warning labels (Food Standard 2.7.1)
The Food Standards Code was amended on 31 July 2020 to require packaged alcoholic beverages with greater than 1.15 per cent alcohol by volume to display a pregnancy warning mark.
Downloadable labels can be obtained from the FSANZ website
There’s a three-year transition period, ending 31 July 2023, for producers to start including the pregnancy warning mark on their packaging. Stock labelled after 31 July 2023 must include the mark, but stock labelled prior to 31 July 2023 may be exhausted after this date without adding the mark.
‘Pregnancy warning mark’ means the following image comprising:
a) the pregnancy warning pictogram (silhouette logo) in black and red,
b) the signal words ‘PREGNANCY WARNING’ in red text and
c) the statement ‘Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby’ in black text.
The three components must appear contained within a black border, on a white background. The warning mark must be displayed with clear space of 3mm surrounding the border.
The size requirements for an individual unit (e.g. a bottle, can or cask) are shown in table 1 below. ‘Size of type’ means the measurement from the base to the top of a letter or numeral.
Table 1: warning mark requirements for individual units
|Individual unit volume ||Warning label to be displayed ||Size of pictogram ||Size of type of signal words ||Size of type of the statement |
|Less than 200mL ||Pictogram only ||At least 8mm diameter ||Not applicable ||Not applicable |
|Between 200mL and 800mL ||Full pregnancy warning mark ||At least 6mm diameter ||At least 2.1mm ||At least 1.6mm |
|More than 800mL ||Full pregnancy warning mark ||At least 9mm diameter ||At least 2.8mm ||At least 2.1mm |
The outer packaging of prescribed alcoholic beverages (e.g. presentation box, multi-unit wrap or 6-pack/12-pack cartons) also requires a pregnancy warning mark. If outer packaging doesn’t obscure the individual unit (e.g. a cellophane wrap or similar) then it doesn’t require a pregnancy warning mark.
The size requirement for outer packages is shown in table 2 below.
Table 2: warning mark requirements for outer packaging
|Package type ||Warning label to be displayed ||Size of pictogram ||Size of type of signal words ||Size of type of the statement |
|Outer package containing only one inner individual unit, with a volume not more than 200mL ||Pictogram only ||At least 8mm diameter ||Not applicable ||Not applicable |
|Outer package containing either: |
- one individual inner unit over 200mL
- multiple inner units, more than 200mL each
- multiple inner units, not more than 200mL each
|Full pregnancy warning mark ||At least 11mm diameter ||At least 3.5mm ||At least 2.7mm |
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 (Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016, Wine Australia Regulations 2018)
Country of origin labelling is a mandatory requirement on Australian wine labels (Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016, Sections 24 and 25). However, this requirement can easily be satisfied with a text statement that is legible and prominent against the background of the packaging.
For a product blended from mixed origins, the statement must identify where the product is packaged and that it comprises imported ingredients or is from multiple origins.
For both domestic and export products, the Wine Australia Regulations 2018 (Regulation 24) require that if a wine is made from grapes grown in more than one country, the description and presentation must identify the proportion from each country. The 85 per cent rule for single-GI claims (95 per cent for multiple-GI claims) outlined under Regulation 26 does not apply to country of origin.
If packaging a product blended from Australian and foreign wine, a statement such as ‘wine packaged in Australia from X per cent Australian and Y per cent [country B] produce’ would satisfy both domestic and export requirements.
For export, it is recommended that country of origin labelling is separated from any GI claim as it may cause issues in some markets. For example, statements such as ‘Wine of Western Australia’ or ‘Wine of Canberra District, Australia’ should be avoided. For further details, consult the relevant Export Market Guide for your intended market.
Name and address (Food Standard 1.2.2)
The name and business address of the supplier must appear on the label. This can be the vendor, manufacturer, packer or importer. Regardless of supplier type, it must be an Australian-based or New Zealand-based entity and must appear in English to comply with the Food Standards Code. 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 Wine Australia 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)
Certain foods and ingredients can cause severe allergic and other adverse reactions in some people. The Food Standards Code requires these to be declared on labels when they are present in food.
On 25 February 2021 the Code was amended to introduce new requirements for the labelling of allergens in food.
These requirements include that allergen information is to be declared:
- in a specific format and location on food labels, and
- using simple, plain English terms in bold font.
The changes will help people find allergen information on food labels more quickly and easily, so they can make informed and safe food choices.
Businesses have 3 years from 25 February 2021 to implement the new requirements. During this transition period, food businesses can comply with either the existing allergen declaration requirements in the Code, or the new requirements.
A 2-year stock-in-trade period will follow the transition period. Any food packaged and labelled with existing allergen declarations before the end of the transition period may be sold for up to 2 years after the end of the transition period.
The mandatory declaration must take the form of a summary statement commencing with the word ‘Contains’ and then the list of the required name of each food to be declared. The statement must contain no other words. The summary statement must be printed in a bold font that provides a distinct contrast with any other text.
The mandatory declaration as applicable to wine and wine products must follow the required wording as outlined in the table below:
added sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more
Be aware that some allergenic substances can come from obscure sources. For example, some caramels used in the production of fortified wines are produced from wheat (gluten), and some ‘technical’ corks may be manufactured using casein-based glues that may leach into the product. Refer to Schedule 9 of the Code for advice on the mandatory declarations for other foods.
Wine manufacturers are advised to seek written advice from suppliers 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.
Exporters should take particular note of any allergen labelling requirements in the destination market as some markets specify the format and language. In some export markets allergens labelling for milk and egg is not required. Refer to the Export Market Guides for further assistance.
Sulphite and preservative free wines
Even if no sulphur dioxide has been added, care must be taken in any claim that a wine contains ‘zero sulphur’ or is ‘preservative free’. Yeast can naturally produce sulphites during the fermentation process. ‘Preservative free’ should only be claimed if there are no quantifiable levels of sulphur dioxide in the wine. If there is less than 10mg/kg of naturally occurring sulphur dioxide a claim such as ‘no added preservatives’ may be acceptable.
Vintage, Variety and Geographical Indication (Wine Australia Regulations 25, 26 and 27)
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’ can’t include geographical indication claims, with the exception of ‘Australia’.
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 Wine Australia Regulations 2018 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, Water and the Environment, 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.
Imported wine, other than wine from New Zealand, must comply with the Imported Food Control Act 1992 which specifies that imported food comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
The labelling requirements set out in Part 1.2 and Part 2.7 of the Food Standards Code, and outlined above, applies to imported wines. Imported wine must also comply with the production limits set out in Part 1.3 and Part 1.4 of the Food Standards Code and the related schedules, particularly Schedules 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20. The wine production requirements set out in Standard 4.5.1 apply only to Australian wines.
If an imported wine refers to a foreign country geographical indication or foreign place name at least 85% of the wine must have been obtained from grapes grown in the country, region or locality indicated by the GI. If the wine is made from grapes grown in more than one country, the description and presentation of the wine must identify the proportion of the wine that originated in each country.
The false and misleading offence provisions of the Wine Australia Act 2013 also apply to imported wine if that wine has a description and presentation that includes a registered geographical indication or a registered translation of the indication and the wine did not originate in the country, region or locality indicated, or if the wine includes a registered traditional expression, registered quality wine term or a registered additional term and the wine does not comply with any registered conditions of use.
Finally, any product sold in Australia is subject to the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits conduct in trade or commerce which is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive. See the ACCC’s guidance on making premium claims and Green Marketing Guide. In short, any claims must be honest, accurate and able to be substantiated.