A bill was introduced to the Oregon Senate last week which proposes to amend several sections of the Oregon Revised Statutes, namely ORS 471.445 and ORS 471.446. The Senate Bill, SB 111-1, proposes significants changes to the Oregon Revised Statutes with respect to wine labeling, many of which will directly impact wineries located in other states who source bulk grapes, juice, or wine from Oregon and fully finish or bottle or package the wine outside of Oregon.
ORS 471.445 currently speaks to using misleading marks or labels on a container and forbids an industry member licensed under Chapter 471 of the Oregon Revised Statutes from using such marks or labels in “any way might deceive any customer as to the nature, composition, quantity, age or quality of such liquor.” ORS 471.445(1). SB 111-1 proposes several language changes to ORS 471.445 but also adds the following provision to ORS 471.445(1):
In addition, a licensee may not use or allow the use of any mark or label on a container of wine that the licensee keeps for sale, if the container in any way might deceive any customer as to the origin or geographic designation of the wine.
ORS 471.446 currently speaks to seals on wine and cider containers and its second provision states the “Oregon Liquor Control Commission may refuse to sell, or may prohibit any licensee from selling, any brand of alcoholic liquor which in its judgment is deceptively labeled or branded as to content, or contains injurious or adulterated ingredients.”
SB 111-1 proposes to make several significant changes to ORS 471.446. First, 471.446(2) is amended to extend to include alcohol which is deceptively labeled or branded as to its origin or geographic designation. In addition, SB 111-1 proposes to at provisions three (3) through six (6). Provision (3) provides an explanation of when a wine is considered to be deceptively labeled or branded when using ‘Oregon,’ an Oregon county, or another geographic designation of Oregon on its label or packaging. Provision (4) discusses when a wine is considered to be deceptively labeled or branded when using an AVA located wholly or partially within Oregon.
While industry members producing wine in or purchasing wine or grapes from Oregon should familiarize themselves with the proposed changes to 471.446, the following additions 471.446(6)(a) and (c) are worth highlighting:
(6)(a) A wine is deceptively labeled or packaged as to origin if:
(A) The wine is in whole or in part from Oregon grapes that were made into wine outside of Oregon;
(B) The wine label or packaging uses an Oregon name or other geographic designation; and
(C) Either the label or packaging does not identify the state where the wine was produced by bearing the words ‘Produced in (name of state)’ immediately preceding, and in a font twice the size of, the Oregon name or geographic designation.
(6)(c) A wine is deceptively labeled or packaged as to origin if:
(A) The wine is fully finished in Oregon and is packaged outside of Oregon;
(B) The wine label or packaging uses an American Viticultural Area located wholly or partially in this state or a derivative name; and
(C) Either the label or packaging does not identify the state where the wine was vinted by bearing the words ‘Vinted in (name of state)’ immediately preceding, and in font twice the size of, any use of the American Viticultural Area or derivative name.
The use of “and” in (6)(a) and (6)(c) would require all three elements to be present in order for the Oregon statute to consider the wine to be deceptively labeled or packaged. It is also worth mentioning that (6)(a) seems to focus more on wines that are fermented or otherwise fully finished outside Oregon whereas (6)(c) speaks to wines that are fully finished in Oregon but packaged or bottled in another state.
The Senate Bill is a response to an ongoing circumstance in the industry where some companies are sourcing wine or grapes from Oregon, referencing or stating Oregon geographical places of origin on the label, and providing the name of a state other than Oregon in the bottled/cellared/vinted/etc. statement. Oregon wine industry argues that this practice is misleading, especially to an unsuspecting consumer who may only look to the front-most portion of the bottle and assume that a reference or Oregon or a more specific geographical region in the state is likely to imply the wine is indeed fully finished and bottled within the state. The proposed bill seeks to tighten the gap and to demand more transparency in wine labeling.
For more information on wine or alcohol law, please contact Lindsey Zahn.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.