Wine Labeling: Alcohol Content
The alcohol content statement is a numerical statement on a wine label that indicates the alcohol content of the wine in terms of percentage of alcohol by volume.
For wines over 14 percent alcohol by volume, a numerical alcohol content statement is mandatory. The alcohol content may appear as either a specific number or a range.
For wines 7 to 14 percent alcohol by volume, a numerical alcohol content statement is optional if the type designation “table wine” or “light wine“ appears on the brand label as the mandatory class/type designation.
In this example, the alcohol content is stated as a specific percentage, Alc. 13.5% By Vol.
Alternatively, because the alcohol content of this wine is 13.5%, it could include the
designation “Table Wine” on the brand label in lieu of the numerical alcohol content statement.
Note: If table wine or light wine is made from any commodity other than grapes, “table wine” or “light wine” must be qualified with the specific or general class of the commodity from which the wine was made. (See Classes and Types Chart, in Wine Beverage Alcohol Manual, Chapter 5.)
Example: “CHERRY TABLE WINE” or “LIGHT RICE WINE”
Where should the alcohol content statement be placed on the product?
It may appear on any label of the container.
What are the formatting requirements?
Specific percentages and ranges of alcohol content must be stated in terms of percentage of alcohol by volume. The following requirements also apply:
- Only alc. and vol. may be used to abbreviate the words alcohol and volume. They may be used with or without periods. The abbreviation “ABV” is not allowed.
- The words (or abbreviations) may appear in capital letters or lower case letters.
- The numerical alcohol content may precede or follow the term “alcohol” or “alc.”
Examples of alcohol content statements shown as specific percentages are:
- “ALCOHOL ___% BY VOLUME”
- “____% Alc. by Vol.”
Examples of alcohol content statements shown in a range are:
- “___% to ___% alcohol by volume”
- “ALC. ___% TO ___% BY VOL.”
For containers of 5 liters or less, the type size must be a minimum of 1 mm and a maximum of 3 mm.
The minimum and maximum type sizes apply to each numeral, symbol or letter in the statement, including both upper-case and lower-case letters.
- Must be readily legible under ordinary conditions;
- Must appear on a contrasting background.
Does the alcohol content stated on the label need to indicate the exact alcohol content of the product, or does TTB allow a tolerance?
Alcohol content may be stated as a specific percentage with a tolerance of:
- Plus or minus 1 percentage point for wines containing over 14% alcohol by volume;
Example: A wine is labeled with the alcohol content statement “18% ALC. BY VOL.” Provided the actual alcohol content does not exceed 19% or fall below 17%, the label alcohol content statement “18% ALC. BY VOL.” is permissible.
- Plus or minus 1.5 percentage points for wines containing 14% or less alcohol by volume;
Example: A wine is labeled with the alcohol content statement “12% ALC. BY VOL.” Provided the actual alcohol content does not exceed 13.5% or fall below 10.5%, the label alcohol content statement “12% ALC. BY VOL.” is permissible.
Alternatively, alcohol content may be stated as a range. The range may not exceed:
- 2 percentage points for wines containing over 14% alcohol by volume;
Example: “17%-19% ALC. BY VOL.”
- 3 percentage points for wines containing 14% or less alcohol by volume;
Example: “9%-12% ALC. BY VOL.”
Note: Regardless of the prescribed tolerances and the allowed ranges, an alcohol content statement, whether required or optional, must definitely and correctly indicate the class, type, and taxable grade of the wine so labeled. The regulations do not authorize the appearance of a range of alcohol content on a label if the range overlaps a prescribed limitation on the alcohol content of any class, type, or taxable grade of wine. See the current version of 27 CFR part 4 for class and type designations. See the current version of 26 U.S.C. 5041 for wine tax classifications.
Example: A still grape table wine is labeled with the designation “table wine” and the alcohol content statement “13.5% ALC. BY VOL.” Provided the actual alcohol content does not exceed 14% or fall below 12%, the labeled alcohol content statement “13.5% ALC. BY VOL.” is permissible. It would not be permissible if the actual alcohol content of the wine were 14.5% alcohol by volume, because this alcohol content would put the wine into a different type designation (i.e., dessert wine rather than table wine).
Page last reviewed: September 26, 2019
Page last updated: September 26, 2019
Maintained by: Alcohol Labeling and Formulation Division