Australia: From grape to glass: the Australian wine industry

Last Updated: 23 June 2017
Article by Kenneth Stanton

Buying a vineyard where you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour sounds like paradise, but it may not be quite as idyllic as you imagine. Kenneth Stanton, one of Australia's leading wine lawyers, examines the maze of regulations that winemakers need to navigate in order to get their product off the vine and into the consumer's glass.

I've always viewed winemaking as a poetic – even a magical – process, and it seems that quite a few celebrities have also been bewitched. The film director Francis Ford Coppola, and musician and singer Cliff Richard, both own vineyards. Gérard Depardieu is such an enthusiast, he owns vineyards in several countries. Allegedly, his passport lists his profession as vigneron rather than actor.

However, the reality is that viticulture is a tough, and even fickle, business. Ideally, you need to be a shrewd businessperson because you're at the mercy not just of local economic developments but of the global economy.

In addition, winemaking is an extremely competitive industry.

The many challenges wine producers face is something I see every day working with clients operating in the industry.

Interestingly, it isn't just the economics of viticulture that tests. Most aspiring vintners don't realise that the way in which the industry is regulated will also pose challenges. They aren't simply facing regulation at a local and national level; there is a web of international institutions and agreements that will affect everything they do.

In my view, being aware of what is involved, including the potential pitfalls, is (to use another agricultural metaphor) what separates the sheep from the goats in the wine industry.

Have you ever been tempted to escape your corporate job and buy a vineyard? Would it be as idyllic as you imagine?

Growing grapes is a very labour-intensive process, involving activities such as pruning, leaf plucking and shoot thinning. You may need to spend time and money netting hectares of vines to protect your crop from birds. In addition, grapes are very dependent on the weather. Your vineyard could be hit by a storm and all your grapes split by hail. A year's work could be lost in minutes.

The reality is that you're not just facing a lot of hard work and the unpredictable forces of nature. Your activities are strictly controlled, because the regulatory bodies operating in this area are tasked with protecting the reputation of Australian wines while boosting sales in overseas markets.

Growers must comply with the Australian Label Integrity Program (LIP), which requires everyone in the wine supply chain to keep an auditable trail of documents indicating the vintage, grape variety and geographical indication of the grape products they grow, manufacture, supply or receive.

The penalties for failing to keep a record, keeping a false or misleading record, making a label claim not supported by your records or failing to provide a copy of the record when supplying wine goods can be severe and, in extreme cases, may lead to imprisonment.

It is likely that you'll have to use chemicals to protect your crop from a variety of pests. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) sets the maximum residue limits permitted. However, the regulator of residues of chemicals in food (and wine) is Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), which adopts the maximum residue limits set by the APVMA. You're required by law to keep a record not only of what chemicals you use, but how much of them you use.

However, the regulations don't stop there when it comes to grape growing.

If you're keen to export your wine overseas, you need to be aware that the maximum residue limits are much lower in the European Union than in Australia.

In addition, there are a large number of bilateral trade agreements that affect the international wine trade. Australia, along with Canada, Chile, South Africa and the United States, has made concessions regarding geographic indications in return for improved access to the European Union market. So, don't even think about calling your beautiful sparkling wine 'champagne' or your red wine 'Burgundy' (even if your vines were imported from that French region back in the 19th century). In addition, you can't state that your wine is from McLaren Vale unless it was actually sourced from that region.

What about making the wine? How much red tape is involved?

This is where the regulations become even more heavy-handed.

Decisions made by intergovernmental and international non-government organisations such as the International Office of Vine and Wine (OIV), the World Trade Organization, Codex Alimentarius, the World Wine Trade Group and the Fédération International des Vins et Spiriteux determine what you can call your wine, the additives you can use and the labels you can affix to the bottle, as well as where you can export your wine.

It is at this point that you might wonder whether you should have kept things simple and stuck to growing grapes, letting someone else handle the winemaking.

As a winemaker, you must keep records documenting any changes to the wine goods. The blending rules for wine are far from straightforward and affect vintage, variety and geographical indication. For example, if the wine is blended from different vintages or geographical indications, your records must show what proportions of the blend are represented by each blended wine, and the vintage, variety and geographical indication of each such wine.

You will soon discover that, when it comes to labelling your wine, you can only refer to grape varieties recognised by the OIV, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. In addition, as mentioned above, you must only use the geographical indications that have been agreed upon for Australia.

But the regulations don't stop with blending.

Wine production in Australia is governed by Standard 4.5.1 of the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code. The Code contains definitions for wine, sparkling wine, fortified wine, grape spirit and brandy.

The Code also regulates food additives and specifies those approved for the production of wine, sparkling wine and fortified wine (such as ascorbic acid, citric acid, dimethyl dicarbonate, erythorbic acid, lactic acid, etc.). It also lists the approved processing aids for the production of wine, sparkling wine and fortified wine (such as activated carbon, agar, alginates, calcium and potassium salts, ammonium phosphates, argon, etc.).

If you are planning to export your wine, you need to retain at least two samples of each product selected for export for at least six months after bottling, or for three months after the stock is exhausted, whichever is earliest.

By this point, you may be close to tearing your hair out. However, you're only twothirds of the way through the Australian wine regulation maze.

What about packaging the wine? Surely, that's fairly straightforward?

Not exactly.

Wine labelling in Australia is governed by a range of federal and state laws. As touched on above, the brand name must not mislead as to the origin, age or identity of the wine.

In addition, the legislation specifies how the vintage, region, variety, volume, designation, country of origin, alcohol content, allergens, name and address, lot number and number of standard drinks are specified.

You also need to comply with the regulations relating to labelling item position, language, brand name, bar codes, 'best before' date and carton labelling.

You need to be aware that:

  • vintage claims are optional but must be 85%
  • region (GI) claims are optional but must be 85%
  • variety claims are optional but must be 85%.

What about if you're keen to export your wine and tap into some of those lucrative overseas markets?

Under the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Regulations, all wine shipments over 100 litres require export approval. The idea behind this is to protect the reputation of Australian wine by assisting wine producers to comply with international regulatory requirements, monitor compliance with Australian law, and investigate breaches when detected.

You will need to go through the following approval process:

  1. Obtain a licence to export.
  2. Register the product.
  3. Issue an export permit for each consignment of wine leaving Australia that is
  4. in excess of 100 litres.

If you want to export your wine to the European Union, you will need to obtain a VI1 Certificate of Analysis after you've obtained an Export Permit. This can be obtained from any National Authority of Testing Authorities-accredited laboratory.

In addition, if you're dealing with a bulk wine shipment, you need to ensure that you're complying with loading and transportation specifications. Failure to do so may result in your licence for future bulk wine shipments being suspended.

It's also worth noting that wine exports are subject to a levy (the Wine Export Charge), which is calculated as a percentage of the sales value.

Finally, you need to be aware that the requirements for wine labels differ for each country, and that some country authorities or importers require additional certification.

The good news is that once you've checked out those requirements, you are on your way to international success and can pour yourself a stiff drink to celebrate.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Kenneth Stanton
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions