Dec 3, 2019 | design, packaging, process

Wine labeling rules and regulations


Laws and specifications to be taken into account in the production of wine labels

A book is not chosen by its cover, but a wine can (and should!) be chosen by the label.

As such, special attention needs to be paid to labeling rules. There are laws and specifications that need to be adhered to, and these influence the final design of the label. Our job is to make the perfect symbiosis between these 2 factors.

Before we discuss the laws on food and alcohol labeling, we want to talk about the golden rule across all regulations: the label must be as genuine as the product to which it is attached. The indications used on the labeling may not mislead the consumer or give the product effects or properties which it does not possess. There must therefore be the utmost rigor in describing the product’s nature, identity, quality, composition and origin.

Every consumable product, whether it be food or alcohol, has unique laws and policies. In this article, we will discuss the specific regulations for consumable products within Portuguese jurisdiction, with a specific focus on wine labels.

First, who regulates and approves a wine label?

When we talk about wine, there are 2 different main responsible entities.

In the case of DO / GI (Denomination of Origin or Geographical Indication) wines, the Viniculture Committees are responsible for the approval. Wines without DO / GI, designated only as “wines” (formerly known as “table wines”), the entity responsible for supervision is the Wine and Vineyard Institute.

The following elements must be included on a wine label:

The Brand

This must be registered under the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). In the case of wines without DO / GI, they cannot contain quality designations or indications associated with DO / GI products, such as Superior or Reserve, or references to the holding.

Indication of Origin

The indications concerning origin, bottler, producer and importer also differ depending on the type of wine.

For wines without DO / GI that comes from a single Member State, the label should indicate the country of origin with the following format: “Product of (…)”. In the case of a blend of wines from various EU sources, the indication is “EU wine”.

For wines with DO / GI, the country of origin may be indicated in one of the following formats:
• “Wine from (…)”,
• “Produced in (…)”,
• “Product of (…)”
• Or, the equivalent of one of these versions in an official EU language, respecting the required dimensions (characters height 1,2 mm or more).

Reference to Producer / Bottler

The indication of the producer / bottler on the labeling of alcoholic beverages is accompanied by the words “Bottled by (…)”, “Packaged by (…)” or “Packed by (…)”. This expression must be followed by the social name of the bottler, the municipality or parish, and the country where it is headquartered.

For wines with DO / GI it is possible to use other expressions, such as: “Bottled in House”, “Estate Bottle,” and “Bottled by the Producer”.

Product Designation

You must also designate the product in question, especially considering that in the wine world there are many variants under the umbrella of wine. This can range from liqueur wine, to sparkling, semi-sparkling, or semi-sparkling wine, wine partially fermented grape or overripe grapes.


The label must also contain the quality of the beverage of the bottle by volume. It must be represented in numerical digits followed by the unit of measurement (l / l, cl, ml). The label size and fonts must also correspond with the size of the bottle. For example, a 750ml bottle should have characters with a minimum height of 4mm, whereas in a 3L BIB the minimum height is 6mm.

Alcohol Content

This value must always be expressed in % vol (percentage by volume). And, as in the volume, you must adjust the font height according to the size of the bottle. If it the greater than 1L, the height is 5mm; if it is 1L or less, the height is 3mm.

Lot Number

Batch reference on the labeling of alcoholic beverages is mandatory and represents the number of available units of a product bottled or packaged in virtually identical circumstances. Thus, each bottling corresponds to a different lot. The lot number, preceded by L, is one of the few pieces of information that may be outside the mandatory visual field.

Allergen Information

When a product contains any ingredients or derivatives that are known to cause food allergies or intolerance, they must be explicitly mentioned in the format “Contains X”. In the case of wines, the most common allergens are sulfites and milk and egg derivatives. The font height of the characters in this indication must be 1.2 mm or larger.

Seal of Guarantee

The seal of guarantee is produced by the partner printers of the certifying entities. Each certified bottle is assigned a seal with a unique alphanumeric code. It is responsible for certifying the authenticity of the origin of the wine and the quality of the product sold under the Portuguese name.

Graphic Symbol

Wines without DO / GI must show the graphic symbol given by the IVV. It is composed of capital letters- IVV, followed by space and a 3 or 4 digit number. It must be at least 3 mm high, 15 mm long, and printed on the label of packaged wine products.

What other information should be included on a wine label

The above elements are mandatory to include on a wine label according the laws of Portugal. However, there is additional information that is not obligatory to include, but is considered best practice, as it can help inform the consumer about the product.

Additional labeling information helps guide the consumer during their purchase and also contributes to the brand image and identity. Adding information related to flavor profile, notes, gastronomic suggestions and recommended serving temperature, can enhance the consumer’s experience of the beverage. Mention of the history or particularity of the wine, region, property, or producer helps build interest and loyalty of consumers.

Here are some suggestions of information to add to enrich the wine label:

– Reference to color (white, red or rosé)
– Reference to sugar content (on a Dry to Sweet scale)
– Harvest Year
– Aging
– Type of containers used during aging
– Allergen pictogram (example below)

Note: This article refers to the laws specifically related to wine products. However, you can find here, in the IVV Labeling Manual, the indications and specifications for other products such as brandy and aromatized drinks, sparkling wine or even wine vinegar and balsamic. To respect the rules of labeling of alcoholic beverages is to respect the beverage itself, and should not be treated as a way to preserve the authenticity of the product.

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