Wine Regulations: New World Countries

By Ryan Snyder

While New World countries do have wine regulations, they are much different than the regulations imposed upon their Old World Counterparts. Old World wineries must follow strict rules governing the types of grapes used in their wines and vineyard and winemaking practices. New World regulations are much more relaxed, and give the winemakers creative license for tayloring the wine in nearly any manner they choose. Below you will find a list of New World countries and a brief summary of their wine regulations.


Argentina:

Many producers have attempted to band together and define Argentina’s wine regulations without success. The only real regulation governs labels, where wines that carry a grape variety on their label must me made from at least 80% of that grape variety.


Australia:

Although nowhere near as strict as the French AOC, Australian wine regulations are enforced by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, and include the following:

• When using a state, zone, region, or sub-region on a label, 85% of the wine must be from the stated place.
• If a grape variety is stated on the label, 85% of the wine must consist of that grape.
• If a vintage is stated on the label, 85% of the wine must come from that vintage.
• When blending grapes, if two or three grapes make up at least 85% of the wine, each of the grapes that make up 20% or more of the wine must be. If four or five grape varieties are used, and each makes up at least 5% of the wine, each of these grapes must be stated. Additionally, the grapes must be stated in the order of importance, such as Cabernet-Merlot when the wine contains more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot.


Canada:

Canada itself does not have many wine regulations. However, in order to increase the quality of Canadian wine, many of Canada's top producers banded together to create the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA). This alliance enacted many regulations similar to the French AOC, such as defined appellation boundaries, accepted grape varietals, and vineyard and winemaking practices. VQA participation is voluntary, and Canadian producers that are members of this alliance may use the VQA seal on wine bottles after the wine has been tested and approved by the alliance’s governing body.


Chile:

As recently as 1995, a joint association including the Servicio Agricola Ganadero, the Ministerio de Agricultura and Chilean wineries established Chile’s first set of wine regulations. They established boundaries for regions, sub-regions and appellations, as well as wine label regulations, which include:

• If a wine label carries the name of a place, such as a region, sub-region or appellation, 75% of the grapes must come from that place.
• When a wine label carries the name of a grape variety, the wine must be made from at least 75% of that grape variety.
• If a wine label carries a vintage, 75% of the wine must come from that vintage.


New Zealand:

New Zealand’s wine regulations are controlled by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and include the following:

• If a wine label carries the name of a place, such as a region, sub-region or appellation, 75% of the grapes must come from that place.
• If two grapes are named on the label, the grapes must be stated in the order of importance, such as Cabernet-Merlot when the wine contains more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot.
• In New Zealand, when a wine label carries the name of a grape variety, the wine must be made from at least 75% of that grape variety. When the wine is exported to the EU or the United States and the wine label carries the name of a grape variety, the wine must be made from at least 85% of that grape variety.


South Africa:

In 1973, the Wine of Origin System was introduced and established boundaries for South Africa’s winelands, which were divided into official regions, districts, wards and estates. South Africa’s wine regulations are defined by the South Africa Wine and Spirit Board, are enforced by South Africa Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS), and include the following:

• A wine label can carry the designation of a Wine of Origin, which shows that the wine is one of the highest quality wines in South Africa. In order to carry this designation, 100% of the grapes must be from the defined appellation, 75% of the wine must be from the specified vintage and 75% of the wine (85% if exported to the EU) must be from the stated grape variety.
• If a wine label carries the name of a place, such as a region, sub-region or appellation, 75% of the grapes must come from that place.
• If two grapes are named on the label, the grapes must be stated in the order of importance, such as Cabernet-Merlot when the wine contains more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot.
• When a wine label carries the name of a grape variety, the wine must be made from at least 75% of that grape variety.


United States:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms established American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, to define growing regions distinguished by geographical and terroir features. There are over 140 AVAs in the United States, including Napa Valley in California, Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Finger Lakes in New York. AVAs can extend beyond state boundaries, like the Columbia Valley which extends from Washington into Oregon. Unlike the French AOC, American AVA laws only establish growing area boundaries and do not govern which varietals can be grown or vineyard and winemaking practices. U.S. wine regulations include the following:

• If a wine label carries the name of an AVA, 85% of the grapes must come from that AVA.
• If a wine label carries the name of a county, 75% of the grapes must come from that county.
• If a wine label carries the name of a state, 75% of the grapes must come from that state. Some states vary on this law, such as California, where 100% of the grapes must come from California to carry the state’s name on the label.
• When a wine label carries a vintage, 95% of the grapes must be grown during the stated year.
• When a wine label carries the name of a grape variety, the wine must be made from at least 75% of that grape variety.