Can I sell my homemade wine?

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Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can I sell my homemade wine? What kind of license do I need to obtain to do that?

—Denea, Atlanta

Dear Denea,

The good news is that federal law permits adults to make up to 100 gallons of homemade wine per calendar year if you are the only adult living in the household, and up to 200 gallons if there are two or more adults in the household. The law also allows you to take your homemade wine off premise, “for personal or family use including use at organized affairs, exhibitions or competitions, such as home winemaking contests, tastings or judgings.”

Guess what it says you may not do, under any circumstance? Sell it.

Before you make any wine for commercial purposes, you first need to submit an application to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and get their approval. You’ll need to decide your business structure (as in, are you going to be a bonded winery or a customer at a commercial crush operation?), and submit various applications, including with the IRS (to make sure you’re paying tax on your sales!), labels and a bond to underwrite your payment of federal taxes on your planned wine sales. If you want to turn your home into a legitimate winery, you’ll need to register with the FDA, and there might be state, county and local laws that cover everything from water rights to licensing and distribution guidelines.

If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, this process is currently halted due to the partial federal government shutdown.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. There’s much more information at the TTB’s website, including online application forms. Good luck!

—Dr. Vinny

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