How the Government Shutdown Could Affect Your Wine Drinking

Will we even be able to toast the end of the government shutdown?

Summer's favorite wine
Will we even be able to toast the end of the government shutdown? Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NYCWFF

The partial government shutdown has been a nightmare for industries that depend on federal regulation and oversight to function. Employees whose paychecks are on hold could face damage to their credit if they’re not able to pay bills on time, farmers and ranchers are currently receiving only limited access to the market information that enables them to work with reasonable awareness of risk management, and a recent death in the understaffed Yosemite National Park went unreported for a week.

And now, to make matters worse, the option to drink your cares away might be imperiled.

The shutdown, and the subsequent lapse in funding required to keep essential bureaus operational, has also resulted in great consternation and a pileup of delayed regulatory processes for American winemakers.

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This week, Wine Spectator reported that spirits manufacturers across the country aren’t currently able to get labels for their wine approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which went dark due to the shutdown.

Without Certificates of Label Approval from the TTB, winemakers are being forced to choose between taking the risk of labeling their products themselves without federal oversight or delaying their process until the government reopens, thereby jeopardizing business relationships with customers.

What’s probably not in jeopardy, though, is the integral quality of the wine itself.

“I would argue there is no potential health risk, as the TTB does not normally check wine for potential health risks,” Michael Kaiser, vice president of WineAmerica, told Observer via email. “However, there is a potential consumer risk, as the TTB does review wine labels for accuracy for what is in the product and the origin of the product.”

Fortunately, Kaiser clarified, “the vast majority of wineries are accurate in their labeling.”

And the shutdown isn’t just complicating American wine deliveries: imported blends from other countries also require TTB label approval, meaning that overseas shipments will likely experience delays until the D.C. stalemate is resolved.

“The biggest impact is on these small family businesses that cannot get their products to market, or, in the case of some, open their businesses because they are awaiting permitting or labels for their first vintages,” Kaiser said. “TTB has allowed for more revisions to labels that do not require approval, but any new product needs approval.”

Kaiser added that there’s no real way to gauge whether Americans could experience a wine shortage due to the partial shutdown, so no need to stockpile your pinot gris just yet. How the Government Shutdown Could Affect Your Wine Drinking