Many people have thought about trying to make wine at home. The first question that comes to mind for a lot of them is, is it even legal to make wine at home? In this post, we’ll look into the legality of home winemaking in the US and determine if it is illegal to make wine at home.
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Brief History of Legal Wine In the US
It is estimated that the first wine grapes were planted in California some time in the 1600s. By the mid-1800s, commercial wineries were producing wine in California and wine product started to grow across the United States. Due to differences in climate, many popular European grapes are more difficult to grow in the US.
This led to certain native types of wine grapes being planted in the US such as Catawba. These grapes were planted all of the country to help with US wine production.
The US was a significant producer of wine in the world prior to prohibition. In 1914, California produced 64 million gallons of wine. California was the leading state for vineyards. During this time, prior to prohibition, it was legal to make wine at home or for commercial production. Winemaking in the US flourished.
Prohibition Makes It Illegal to Make Wine
In 1920 the 18th amendment to the constitution of the US was enacted into to law, making it illegal to make or consume alcohol in the United States. This period of time is known as Prohibition. This outlawed commercial and home winemaking, plus the making of other types of alcohol such as liquor or beer.
Many Americans supported the law at the time, but it ultimately led to alcohol production moving underground to “speakeasies”. These were illegal establishments that served alcohol during the prohibition period.
During prohibition, the lack of legal means to make alcohol made for a lucrative illegal alcohol industry which was largely run by organized crime. The makers of illegal alcohol were often referred to as “bootleggers”.
The illegal crime organizations made significant amounts of money from their product. This illegal industry also led to much violence between different gangs that wanted to control the lucrative black market for alcohol.
In the end, many people considered prohibition to be an unworkable policy. In 1979 a law was introduced to allow the making of homemade wine. This made home brewing of wine legal, at least on a federal level.
Federal prohibition of alcohol was finally ended by the 21st amendment to the US constitution, which was signed into law by Franklin D Roosevelt in 1933. It should be noted that this law specifically leaves additional regulation of alcohol to the state government.
The law making alcohol federally illegal in the US was in place for 13 years, from 1920 to 1933.
Is it Legal to Make Wine at Home Today?
Is it Legal to Make Wine at Home Today?
As of today, it is legal to make wine and beer at home in the United States. It should be noted that this does not include distilled spirits.
The TTB is the federal organization that regulates manufacturing and sale of alcohol in the US. By federal law, each single adult household can make up to 100 gallons of wine and beer each year for personal use. Households with more than two adults can produce up to 200 gallons each year.
100 gallons of wine is basically 500 bottles of wine per year. Which is an extremely generous amount for personal consumption.
Some state laws also come into play, but as of 2013, all 50 US states allow wine to be made at home. With Mississippi and Alabama being the last two to allow home production of wine.
Can I Sell Homemade Wine
No. You must have both state and federal permits to sell alcohol in the United States. You cannot sell any alcohol without these permits. You must be fully bonded to sell wine.
Can I Gift Homemade Wine to Another Person?
You are allowed to gift homemade wine to a person of the legal drinking age.There is not a law that prevents you from sharing your homemade wine with family and friends in your own home.
Can I Ship Homemade Wine?
The United State Post Office will not ship alcohol. Venders such as UPS and FedEx will ship alcohol for wine distributers with several regulations. While it is not illegal, UPS and FedEx will not typically ship alcohol for individual consumers.
Can You Be Prosecuted for Making Homemade Wine?
If you limit yourself to the rules of 100 gallons for a single adult or 200 gallons for a multi-adult household, and do not attempt to sell wine, you should not be able to be prosecuted under federal law. Please also remember that you need to obey state laws.
Do I Need A License to Make Homemade Wine
No. The federal government doesn’t require a license to make homemade wine.
Do You Need to Be Legal Drinking Age to Make Homemade Wine
Yes, individuals must be at least 21 years old to make homemade wine.
What types of fruit can be used to make homemade wine?
Any fruit can be used to make homemade wine, but grapes are the most commonly used fruit.
Can homemade wine be entered into competitions?
Yes, homemade wine can be entered into competitions as long as the competition allows it and the wine was made in compliance with federal and state regulations.
Are there any restrictions on where homemade wine can be consumed?
Generally, homemade wine can be consumed anywhere that alcohol is legal and permitted.
As of 2013 it is no longer illegal to make homemade wine in any state. In the United States it is legal to make homemade wine in all 50 states, but you cannot sell the wine without the proper permits.
If you intend to sell wine or produce commercial wine in the US, you need to follow regulations of both the federal TTB and your state laws.