Sen. Chuck Schumer was in Yates County July 3, visiting Fox Run Vineyards on a mission to reduce restrictive regulations on wine packaging and sales.

“Canned wine is the hottest new trend, but Finger Lakes wineries are missing out on ‘barrels of business’ due to burdensome can size and label restrictions,” reads a press release from Schumer’s staff. The senator is calling on federal regulators to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, lift the canning restrictions, and unleash increased wine production. Finger Lakes wineries like Fox Run Vineyards are hindered from selling wine in traditional sized cans and struggle to have products approved for market, missing out on major potential revenue, he says.

Speaking before local business and government figures at Fox Run, Schumer explained that current Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations prevent vineyards from selling wine in regular sized cans, similar to beer. Schumer urged TTB to allow flexibility in Standards of Fill regulations. Currently, per TTB restrictions, wine can only be sold in less popular can formats such as the 12.7 oz can, meanwhile, the popular 12 oz can is prohibited and the popular 8.4 oz can is only allowed to be sold in groups of three or four, and not individually. 

Schumer was joined by Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards, Erica Paolicelli, Co-owner of Three Brothers Winery & Estates and War Horse Brewing Co., Jim Trezise, President of WineAmerica and the National Association of American Wineries, and local officials, who all thanked the senator for his efforts.

Trezise said, “Senator Schumer has for decades been a strong supporter of the New York wine industry, and this is just the latest example. Wine offered in cans is one of the hottest trends in our industry, and the flexibility of packaging will help our producers sell more wine and employ more people. As always, we thank him for his leadership and support.”

Schumer called on TTB to reduce costly wine labeling restrictions that burden local producers with unintended red tape. Schumer explained that TTB removing these bureaucratic hurdles would unshackle producers across the state, leading to even further growth.  

“Even though it has a $4.8 billion impact on New York, TTB is leaving New York’s wine industry hanging on the vine, with outdated rules and restrictions stopping it from reaching its potential. As canned wine continues to become more and more popular, there’s just no good reason why wine producers, like Fox Run Vineyards, shouldn’t be able to capitalize and sell their products in the most popular-sized cans, especially when studies have shown that lifting these unnecessary restrictions would lead to even further economic growth,” said Schumer. “Similarly, the burdensome and Byzantine TTB label approval process is bogging down our Rochester-Finger Lakes producers and stopping new products from hitting the shelves in a timely manner. That’s why I’m saying to the TTB: cut through this bureaucratic red tape, take these regulations that aren’t helping anybody and can them, and uncork the full potential of the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.”

Current TTB regulations allow beer to be sold in cans of any size, but only permit wine and hard cider above 6.9% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to be sold in less popular can formats. In comments submitted to TTB, WineAmerica, a prominent trade association for American wineries, urged the bureau to not only allow the sale of single 8.4 oz cans, but also allow the sale of 12 oz cans, because they are less expensive and easier to source than the 12.7 oz cans. Schumer explained that while beer and soft drink producers enjoy a ready supply of 12 oz cans, New York wineries have reported to him having to wait up to six months to source 12.7 oz cans because they are less commercially viable. Moreover, Schumer said that 12.7 oz cans are often more expensive and require wine producers to buy in bulk, which can be cost-prohibitive for smaller wine producers.

Schumer said that in its Proposed Rulemaking 182, TTB is now reviewing whether to eliminate these can size restrictions and allow wine to be sold in any can sized greater than 50 ml, or at a minimum, examining whether to eliminate the restriction against using popularly-sized cans including the 12 oz cans and individual 8.4 oz cans, among others. Schumer announced his strongest possible support for the lifting of these regulations, so that Fox Run Vineyards and other Upstate wine and cider producers can sell their products in more traditional packaging.

Fox Run Vineyards canned a selection of its wine last year, but was forced to use the larger 12.7 oz cans, which made it more expensive than if the company could have used the standardized 12 oz cans. Fox Run Vineyards had also hoped to sell individual 8.4 oz cans, due to their popularity, but was prevented by the TTB restrictions.

Schumer also called on TTB to adjust wine labeling requirements and improve understanding of requirements to make compliance easier and less burdensome for industry members. He  argued the current myriad patchwork of regulations creates unintended confusion and costly delays as wineries wait on approvals. 

New York State’s grape and wine industry is composed of more than 1,630 family vineyards, 400 wineries, and almost 40,000 acres of cropland. The Finger Lakes region is home to 327 grape growers. Schumer said the New York grape crop alone is valued at over $52 million and generates $4.8 billion in economic benefits annually for the state and therefore, further growth in the canned wine market is absolutely critical.