Manufacturers and bottlers of wine in Florida are regulated by the State of Florida and the federal government. This post discusses the state-level licensing of wineries in Florida.
How does the State of Florida define “wine”?
Manufacturers and bottlers of wine are subject the same licensing requirements in Florida, but what does wine include for this purpose? Wine includes all beverages made from fresh fruits, berries, or grapes, either by natural fermentation or by natural fermentation with brandy added. Cider is a wine according to Florida law, so cideries must be licensed as a winery rather than a brewery. Mead and honey wine do not exactly fall within the definition of wine under Florida law, but meaderies are generally required to be licensed as wineries too.
What license is required to make wine in Florida?
The Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) is authorized to issue two kinds of licenses for the production of wine in Florida. Wineries (including cideries and meaderies) that will manufacture or bottle wine in Florida may obtain an AMW license. The licensing fee for the AMW license is $1,000 per year. Wineries that will manufacture wine or cordials must obtain a BMWC license. The licensing fee for the BMWC license is $2,000 per year.
How can Florida wineries get their wine directly to consumers?
Having an AMW license or a BMWC license does not authorize a winery to sell its wine directly to consumers. Florida has a relatively strict three-tier system for alcoholic beverages, the goal of which is to keep manufacturers, distributors, and retailers separate. Florida’s Tied House Evil Statute generally prohibits a winery from having any financial interest in a retail operation. However, two exceptions to the three-tier system allow Florida wineries to be licensed to sell their wine (and wine manufactured by others) directly to the public.
First, wineries can obtain a license to operate a tasting room as part of the winery. In addition to the AMW license or BMWC license, a Florida winery operating a tasting room must obtain a vendor license which permits the sale of wine for consumption on the premises or in sealed containers for take-away (common licenses for this purpose are the 2COP beer-and-wine only license and the 4COP quota license). A winery must file a separate ABT application for a 2COP or 4COP license. The filing fee currently ranges from $168 to $1,820 depending on the license and the county size.
Second, a certified Florida Farm Winery can obtain a license to sell its wine at Florida festivals, trade shows, expositions, and festivals. The Florida Farm Winery Program allows qualifying wineries to be certified by the Florida Department of Agriculture. A certified Florida Farm Winery must:
- Produce or sell less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually, 60% or more of which is made from state agricultural products;
- Maintain at least 5 acres of owned or managed land in Florida which products the grapes or other product used in producing wine;
- Be open to the public for tours, tastings, and sales at least 30 hours each week; and
- File the annual application and pay the annual registration fee of $100.
Florida wineries are also permitted to provide wine tastings on the premises of the winery. Wine tastings must be limited to and directed toward the general public of the age of legal consumption.
How can a winery expedite the licensing process?
Florida wineries applying for an ABT license – whether AMW, BMWC, 2COP, or 4COP – have the option of applying for a temporary license. Temporary licenses are issued immediately, so long as the application for a temporary license appears complete and sufficient. This means that a winery can start making and selling wine as soon as it has obtained a federal license. The filing fee for a temporary license is 1/4 the fee for the same permanent license.
Do you have any questions about licensing a winery in Florida or any other legal questions about starting up or operating a licensed winery? We’re happy to help. Contact us at email@example.com.