Can I charge a membership fee for a winemaking club without having a license to sell wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Getting a license to sell the wine I make seems burdensome. Could I instead start a winemaking club where members help make the wine, and their membership gets them a certain amount of wine?

—Jason, La Crosse, Wisc.

Dear Jason,

I checked in with my contact at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and he said that if your proposed club follows the TTB rules outlined for home winemakers' centers, then those activities could qualify the wine as made for “personal use.”

Home winemakers' centers are places where people pay a fee to use space and equipment. These centers do not need to qualify under federal rules as a bonded winery (or pay federal excise tax on wine), as long as the customers are of legal age and only use the wine for personal use, among other restrictions. And as the operator, you would be subject to all state and local permit, license and tax requirements. You can find out more at the TTB’s wine FAQ page.

—Dr. Vinny

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