Under the law, wine containers must be labeled with government-approved labels before they can be sold. In some cases, before the TTB will accept a certificate of label approval (“COLA”) application, it will require applicants to submit information about their product and may also require a product sample for laboratory testing. The TTB refers to these submissions as pre-cola product evaluations.
Formula evaluations are not required for all wine.
The TTB recognizes several different classes of wine. To be in a particular “class,” wine must meet the TTB’s standard of identity for wine in that class. For example, Grape Wine is an extremely popular class of wine. Wines such as merlot, pinot noir, and pinot grigio are examples of wines included in the Grape Wine Class. At a very basic level, wine is in the Grape Wine Class if: it is produced through the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of grapes with or without the addition of sugar and is below a maximum allowable volatile acidity. Wine makers making wines that fall within the Grape Wine Class are not generally required to submit a pre-cola formula evaluation.
Formulas are required for some classes of wine recognized by the TTB and for wine that does not fall within any of the recognized class (known as a specialty wine). Prior to applying for COLA [LINK TO ARTICLE RE APPLYING FOR A WINE COLA], you will need to determine whether your wine falls within a class, and if so, whether it is a class for which a pre-cola formula evaluation is required. This information is available on the TTB’s website.
Domestically produced alcohol products are most likely to be subject to a type of pre-cola product evaluation referred to as formula evaluations. The TTB website lists the wine, malted beverage, and distilled spirits that require formula evaluations before a COLA application can be submitted.
For malt beverages, the TTB most commonly requires a formula evaluation for specialty products such as flavored beer. For example, a formula must be filed for beer flavored with chocolate extract or syrup.
Information you must submit for the pre-cola evaluation.
If you are required to submit a pre-cola formula evaluation, you can do so electronically on the TTB’s website. At a minimum, you will need to provide information such as:
- The name, address, and winery number of the proprietor;
- The class and type of the wine;
- The kind and quantity of each and every ingredient used in the wine;
- All flavoring and blending materials used in the wine, if any, including:
- The name of the flavor or blender;
- The name of the manufacturer;
- The manufacturer’s product number, if any;
- A drawback formula number, if any. When a flavor manufacturer uses alcohol in a product that is approved as being unfit for beverage purposes, it is given a drawback formula number and the manufacturer can claim a return on most of the excise tax it paid;
- Date of approval of the nonbeverage formula;
- Alcohol content of the flavor or blender, if any;
- A description of any coloring material contained in the flavor or blender; and
- The step by step sequence used to produce the wine.
Documentation you may need to submit with the pre-cola evaluation.
A flavored ingredient data sheet (“FID”) is a spreadsheet that includes information about ingredients used in compound flavors. A compound flavor is a flavor consisting of multiple ingredients that are combined to produce a particular taste. If you use a compound flavor purchased from a flavor manufacturer in your product, you will need to submit a FID with your formula. The flavor manufacturer should be able to provide you with a FID when you purchase the flavors.
A limited ingredient calculation worksheet is a tool used to calculate the total amount of limited-use ingredients in your product. The limited ingredient calculation worksheet should only be used for products containing a compound flavor. Most of the time, you’ll be able to use the information provided in your FIDs to complete the limited ingredient calculation worksheet. You can obtain a limited ingredient calculation worksheet on the TTB website.
An ingredient specification sheet lists the contents of an ingredient used to complete your product. When submitting your formula, you should include a specification sheet for each ingredient that is made from more than one component (with the exception of compound flavors for which you should submit a flavored ingredient data sheet). For example, if your product is made from a juice made of sugar, water, and lemon, you will likely need to submit a specification sheet listing those components. You should be able to obtain the ingredient specification sheet from the ingredient manufacturer.
Other pre-COLA evaluations -- Sulfite Exemption.
If your wine contains 10 or more parts per million of sulfites, your label must include a sulfite declaration. If you do not want to include the declaration of sulfites for wine containing less than 10 parts per million of sulfites, you will need to submit your product to the TTB for a sulfite analysis pre-COLA evaluation.