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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Honey Wine (Mead)

February 17, 2015

TTB Publishes New Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Honey Wine (Mead)

On February 17, 2015, the Department of the Treasury – Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau published a new set of frequently asked questions on honey wine, also known as mead. The questions address topics that include:

  • What qualifies as “honey wine” and “mead”, and when the terms can be used
  • Labeling of honey wine, including cider with added flavors
  • Tax rates that apply to various types of honey wine
  • How to import honey wine

Below are those FAQs:

HW1: What is 'honey wine' under the IRC?

HW1: What is 'honey wine' under the IRC?

Honey wine is classified under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (IRC), as an “agricultural wine.”  Agricultural wine is made from the fermentation of an agricultural product other than the juice of fruit. (See 27 CFR 24.200 and 24.203.) The production standards under 27 CFR part 24 for honey wine apply only to domestic products.

The IRC does not allow for the use of coloring or flavoring materials (other than hops) in standard honey wine. (See 26 U.S.C. 5387 and HW14 for more information.) Furthermore, wine spirits may not be added to standard honey wine, and standard honey wine may not contain more than 14 percent alcohol by volume. The IRC does provide for the production of wine specialty products that are made from a base of honey wine. These products are not standard agricultural wines, but are instead classified under the IRC regulations as “other than standard” (OTS) wines. (See 27 CFR 24.218.)

HW2: What is 'honey wine' under the FAA Act labeling regulations?

HW2: What is 'honey wine' under the FAA Act labeling regulations?

Under the regulations implementing the labeling provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), the standards of identity for wine made from the fermentation of agricultural products other than fruit are set forth in 27 CFR 4.21(f). Pursuant to these regulations, a product designated as “honey wine” must be derived wholly (except for sugar, water, or added alcohol) from honey. Wines designated as “honey wine” under 27 CFR part 4 also may contain hops, consistent with the levels set forth in part 24. TTB allows the designation “mead” to be used in lieu of “honey wine.” (See HW6.)

Certain wines fermented from honey that do not meet the standards of identity under § 4.21(f) fall under the standards set forth in 27 CFR 4.21(h), and thus must be designated as “imitation” or “other than standard” (OTS) wines. Other specialty products do not fall under any of the standards of identity in part 4 and must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition. (See 27 CFR 4.34(a).)

HW3: Do I need to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for my mead?

HW3: Do I need to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for my mead?

The FAA Act generally requires that a bottler obtain a certificate of label approval (COLA) from TTB prior to bottling wine. A bottler may obtain a certificate of exemption from label approval from TTB upon establishing that the wine will not be sold, shipped, or otherwise introduced in interstate or foreign commerce. Importers are required to obtain a COLA from TTB prior to removing wine in containers from customs custody for consumption.

The FAA Act and its implementing regulations do not apply to wine that contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume; thus mead with an alcohol content of less than 7 percent alcohol by volume is not subject to the COLA requirement. However, please note that all wine removed from wine premises is subject to TTB wine labeling requirements contained in 27 CFR 24.257 (or 27 CFR 24.259 for containers larger than 4 liters). (See HW4 and HW5 for more information about the labeling of these wines.)

HW4: Do Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food labeling requirements apply to honey wine containing less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

HW4: Do Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food labeling requirements apply to honey wine containing less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

Yes. While a TTB COLA is not required for wines containing less than 7 percent alcohol by volume, such wines must comply with applicable FDA food labeling requirements, including ingredient labeling, nutrient labeling, and allergen labeling requirements.

HW5: Is a health warning statement required on the container of a honey wine containing less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

HW5: Is a health warning statement required on the container of a honey wine containing less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

Yes. All alcohol beverages containing 0.5 percent or more alcohol by volume must be labeled with the health warning statement required by 27 U.S.C. 215 and 27 CFR part 16.

HW6: Under the FAA Act labeling regulations, is there a difference between 'honey wine' and 'mead'?

HW6: Under the FAA Act labeling regulations, is there a difference between 'honey wine' and 'mead'?

For labeling purposes, it is TTB’s policy to allow either the term “honey wine” or “mead” as the designation for honey wine that complies with the standards of identity for honey wine set forth in 27 CFR 4.21(f). Furthermore, the terms may be used interchangeably as part of a statement of composition for a wine specialty product (for example, “honey wine with natural cherry flavor” or “mead with natural cherry flavor”).

HW7: What are the labeling requirements for honey wine that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

HW7: What are the labeling requirements for honey wine that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume?

The label must meet the requirements of 27 CFR parts 4 and 16. This includes, but is not limited to, the following mandatory information on the label:

  • Brand name;
  • Class or type designation;
  • Name and address of the bottler or importer, as applicable;
  • Net contents of the container;
  • Alcohol content;
  • Sulfite statement, if applicable (Contains Sulfites); and
  • Health Warning Statement.

Other labeling statements may be required, in accordance with 27 CFR 4.32. Furthermore, all wines containing at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume must be labeled and marked in accordance with IRC requirements in 27 CFR part 24 (for domestic wines), 27 CFR part 26 (for wines coming into the United States from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands) or 27 CFR part 27 (for imported wines).

HW8: How do I label a standard agricultural wine that is fermented from both honey and another agricultural product?

HW8: How do I label a standard agricultural wine that is fermented from both honey and another agricultural product?

A wine fermented from more than one agricultural product (for example, a wine that is fermented from both honey and rhubarb) may not be designated as “honey wine” or “mead” under TTB regulations. Instead, the wine must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition, such as “rhubarb-honey wine” or “rhubarb mead.” (See 27 CFR 4.21(f)(6).)

HW9: How do I label a wine that is fermented from both honey and a fruit (such as cherry)?

HW9: How do I label a wine that is fermented from both honey and a fruit (such as cherry)?

A wine fermented from both fruit juice and an agricultural product does not fall within any of the standards of identity in 27 CFR part 4. This type of wine must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition in accordance with 27 CFR 4.34, such as “cherry-honey wine” or “cherry mead.” The wine also may be labeled with a distinctive or fanciful name, such as “Cherry bee.”

HW10: What is the appropriate designation for a product consisting of honey wine blended with fruit wine (such as blueberry wine)?

HW10: What is the appropriate designation for a product consisting of honey wine blended with fruit wine (such as blueberry wine)?

This product does not fall under any of the standards of identity in 27 CFR part 4, and thus must be labeled with a truthful and adequate statement of composition, such as “blueberry wine – honey wine,” “blueberry wine and honey wine” or “blueberry wine – mead.” In this instance, TTB would not approve a label with the term “blueberry mead” as either a fanciful name or as a designation because it would be misleading as to the identity of the wine.

HW11: Do special labeling requirements apply to effervescent honey wine?

HW11: Do special labeling requirements apply to effervescent honey wine?

Yes. An effervescent wine is a wine that contains more than 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters. (See 27 CFR 24.10.) Under 27 CFR 4.21(f)(6) and 27 CFR 24.257, effervescent honey wine must be labeled as “sparkling” or “carbonated,” as appropriate. (See HW12 for more information.)

HW12: What is the difference between 'sparkling' honey wine and 'carbonated' honey wine?

HW12: What is the difference between 'sparkling' honey wine and 'carbonated' honey wine?

A “sparkling wine” is made effervescent (containing more than 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters of wine) by carbon dioxide resulting solely from the secondary fermentation of the wine within a closed container, tank or bottle. A sparkling honey wine must be labeled either as “sparkling mead” or “sparkling honey wine.” A wine made effervescent in any other way (such as injection of carbon dioxide) is considered artificially carbonated, and must be labeled as “carbonated” (for example, “carbonated mead” or “carbonated honey wine”).

HW13: Are effervescent wines subject to different tax rates from still wines?

HW13: Are effervescent wines subject to different tax rates from still wines?

Under the IRC, sparkling and artificially carbonated wines are subject to higher rates of tax than still wine. (See HW22 and HW23 for more information about the tax rates).

HW14: May I add coloring or flavoring materials to my honey wine?

HW14: May I add coloring or flavoring materials to my honey wine?

If you add coloring or flavoring materials (other than hops) to honey wine, the product is no longer a standard agricultural wine under the IRC. (See 26 U.S.C. 5387(b) and 27 CFR 24.200.) Furthermore, the product is no longer a “honey wine” under the FAA Act labeling regulations. However, you may produce a wine specialty product by adding flavoring and coloring materials to a base of honey wine. Because the product does not fall under any of the standards of identity set out in 27 CFR part 4, it must be designated with a truthful and adequate statement of composition, such as “honey wine with natural ginger flavor” or “mead with natural cherry flavor.” The wine also may be labeled with a distinctive or fanciful name (such as “cherry honey delight”). In this case, TTB would not approve a label with a term such as “cherry mead” as either a fanciful name or a designation because it would be misleading as to the identity of the wine. However, a name such as “cherry-flavored mead” would be acceptable as the fanciful name, as long as an appropriate statement of composition appears as the designation.

HW15: May I label my honey wine with an appellation of origin?

HW15: May I label my honey wine with an appellation of origin?

TTB regulations at 27 CFR 4.25 permit wine (including an agricultural wine that falls under the standards of identity in 27 CFR 4.21(f)) to be labeled with an appellation of origin such as a country, State or county, assuming that certain conditions are met. However, only grape wine may be labeled with an appellation that is a viticultural area.

HW16: Do TTB's standards of fill apply to mead? May I sell my mead in 12 fl. oz. bottles or in kegs?

HW16: Do TTB's standards of fill apply to mead? May I sell my mead in 12 fl. oz. bottles or in kegs?

TTB’s standards of fill apply to wine (including mead) that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume. (See 27 CFR 4.72.) Twelve fluid ounces (12 fluid oz.) is not an approved standard of fill for wine. Producers, importers, and wholesalers are prohibited from selling or shipping, or delivering for sale or shipment, or otherwise introducing in interstate commerce, wine that is not bottled or packed in an authorized standard of fill. (See 27 CFR 4.70.)

Wine may be packed in kegs as long as they conform to one of the standards of fill. However, wine packed in containers of 18 liters or more does not need to comply with these standards of fill requirements. (See 27 CFR 4.70(b)(2).)

If the wine contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume, the standards of fill in 27 CFR part 4 do not apply. Thus, a mead that contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume may be sold in 12 fl. oz. bottles.

HW17: What are the production standards under 27 CFR part 24 for standard honey wine produced in the United States?

HW17: What are the production standards under 27 CFR part 24 for standard honey wine produced in the United States?

TTB regulations at 27 CFR 24.203 state that the following may be added in the production of standard honey wine:

  • Water to facilitate fermentation, provided the density of the honey and water mixture is not reduced below 13 degrees Brix;
  • Hops in quantities not to exceed one pound for each 1,000 pounds of honey; and
  • Pure, dry sugar or honey for sweetening. Sugar may be added only after fermentation is completed.

After complete fermentation or complete fermentation and sweetening, the wine may not have an alcohol content of more than 14 percent by volume or a total solids content that exceeds 35 degrees Brix.

HW18: Do I need to obtain TTB formula approval before producing standard honey wine?

HW18: Do I need to obtain TTB formula approval before producing standard honey wine?

Yes. All domestically produced agricultural wines, including mead, require formula approval from TTB. (See 27 CFR 24.201.) Additional information about obtaining TTB formula approval may be found on TTB’s formulation webpage.

HW19: Does the IRC allow me to produce honey wine that is not a standard agricultural wine?

HW19: Does the IRC allow me to produce honey wine that is not a standard agricultural wine?

If you wish to add coloring or flavoring materials (other than hops) to a honey wine base, or if you wish to blend honey wine with other wine, you must first obtain approval of a formula for an “other than standard” (OTS) wine under the IRC. (See 27 CFR 24.218.) (Also see HW10 and HW14 for information about the labeling of such products.)

HW20: What IRC labeling requirements apply to all honey wine removed from bonded wine premises?

HW20: What IRC labeling requirements apply to all honey wine removed from bonded wine premises?

Although TTB’s FAA Act wine labeling regulations in 27 CFR part 4 do not apply to wine that contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume, IRC labeling requirements and TTB regulations at 27 CFR 24.257 apply to all wines removed from wine premises. Under TTB regulations, labels must include the following information:

  • Name and address of the wine premises;
  • Brand name;
  • Alcohol content;
  • Net contents of the container; and
  • Kind of wine, which means –
    • Class or type in accordance with part 4; or
    • An adequate statement of composition for wines not subject to part 4. Statements of composition must include enough information to identify the tax class when viewed with the alcohol content.

Containers larger than 4 liters removed from the winery for consumption or sale must be labeled with this information as required by 27 CFR 24.259. The required information may be cut, printed, or otherwise legibly and durably marked upon the container or placed on a label or tag securely affixed to the container.

HW21: Do I need to obtain a permit from TTB to produce honey wine (mead) for commercial purposes?

HW21: Do I need to obtain a permit from TTB to produce honey wine (mead) for commercial purposes?

Yes. If you are producing wine (including mead) that is at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume for commercial purposes, you must first establish winery premises, obtain a bond, and receive permission from TTB to operate. (See 27 CFR part 24, subpart D.) In addition, the FAA Act requires that anyone wishing to engage in the business of producing or blending wine (including mead) that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume must first obtain a basic permit from TTB. (See 27 CFR part 1.) A basic permit under the FAA Act is not required for producers who only make wine that is less than 7 percent alcohol by volume. For more information on qualification requirements, see http://www.ttb.gov/wine/federal_app.shtml.

HW22: What are the Federal excise tax rates for wine?

HW22: What are the Federal excise tax rates for wine?

Wine is taxed at the excise tax rate appropriate to the wine product (with special rules for certain types of cider). (See 26 U.S.C. 5041.) Products removed from a bonded wine premises that contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume are not taxable as wine. The following are the basic tax classification categories for wine:

Still wine (containing not more than 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters):

  • Not more than 14 percent alcohol by volume: $ 1.07 per wine gallon
  • Over 14 and not more than 21 percent alcohol by volume: $ 1.57 per wine gallon
  • Over 21 and not more than 24 percent alcohol by volume: $ 3.15 per wine gallon

Effervescent wine (containing more than 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters):

  • Artificially Carbonated Wine: $ 3.30 per wine gallon
  • Sparkling Wine: $ 3.40 per wine gallon

In addition, domestic wine producers may be eligible for a small producer tax credit based on their volume of production, as described in HW 24.

HW23: For tax purposes, what is the difference between 'sparkling' wine and 'artificially carbonated' wine?

HW23: For tax purposes, what is the difference between 'sparkling' wine and 'artificially carbonated' wine?

A “sparkling wine” is made effervescent (containing more than 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters of wine) by carbon dioxide resulting solely from the secondary fermentation of the wine within a closed container, tank or bottle. A wine made effervescent in any other way (such as injection of carbon dioxide) is considered artificially carbonated. (See HW11 and HW12 for information about the labeling of these products.)

HW24: Are mead producers eligible for the small producer tax credit?

HW24: Are mead producers eligible for the small producer tax credit?

Like other domestic wine producers, domestic mead producers are eligible for the small producer tax credit if they produce not more than 250,000 gallons of wine during a calendar year. The credit may be taken on the first 100,000 gallons of wine removed for consumption or sale by an eligible person during a calendar year, and it does not apply to sparkling wine (including sparkling mead) or to wine that is not produced at a qualified bonded wine premises in the United States. (See 27 CFR 24.278 for more details about the conditions for taking the credit.) For additional information on computing the tax credit, please see TTB’s Quick Reference Guide to Wine Excise Tax.

HW25: I import honey wine. What TTB requirements apply to my operations?

HW25: I import honey wine. What TTB requirements apply to my operations?

If you import honey wine (mead) that contains not less than 7 percent alcohol by volume, you must:

If you also import wine (including mead) that is at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume and less than 7 percent alcohol by volume, the following requirements apply:

  • Label the wine in accordance with all applicable FDA food labeling requirements;
  • Label the wine with the Health Warning Statement required by 27 CFR part 16;
  • Pay the appropriate excise tax rate (see HW 22);
  • Label the wine in accordance with 27 CFR part 27.

You do not need to obtain an Importer’s Basic Permit if you import only wine that contains less than 7 percent alcohol by volume. Additional information regarding the importation of alcohol beverages into the U.S. may be found on the International Affairs Division webpage.

HW26: May a brewer produce honey wine (mead) on brewery premises?

HW26: May a brewer produce honey wine (mead) on brewery premises?

No. TTB regulations at 27 CFR 25.23 do not permit the production of wine (including mead) on brewery premises. However, brewers may apply to TTB for permission to alternate the use of a portion of the brewery with a winery premises as outlined in 27 CFR 25.81.

HW27: I would like to blend honey wine (mead) and beer. Is that permitted under TTB regulations?

HW27: I would like to blend honey wine (mead) and beer. Is that permitted under TTB regulations?

No. Under Federal law and TTB regulations, the blending of wine (including mead) and beer is not an authorized operation at a winery (see 27 CFR 24.101) or a brewery (see 27 CFR 25.23). Under TTB regulations, beer must be brewed from malt or from a substitute for malt. However, a brewer may use honey as an adjunct in the fermentation of beer on brewery premises, subject to the regulations in part 25. (See 27 CFR 25.15(a).)

HW28: May I label a malt beverage fermented from honey and malted barley as 'mead'?

HW28: May I label a malt beverage fermented from honey and malted barley as 'mead'?

No. Because “mead” is viewed as a synonym for “honey wine,” it is TTB’s position that the term may not be used as a designation for a malt beverage. The term “braggot” may be used as additional information on the label of such a product, but it would not suffice as the designation by itself. (See TTB Ruling 2014-4 for more information about the appropriate designation of malt beverages made with honey.)
You can find the honey wine FAQs any time on the Alcohol FAQs page and from the Wine Industry home page.