Congressman facilitates feds’ approval of wine labels

06/30/2011 2:55 PM |
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Jim Waters in May with his label-less wine bottles.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Jim Waters in May with his label-less wine bottles.

The great wine label crisis of the 2010 vintage year has been resolved.

Congressman Tim Bishop announced Thursday that he has successfully intervened on the behalf of three North Fork winemakers to help them get their wine labeled and ready for sale, after federal budget cutbacks and increased demand jammed up the wine label approval process earlier this year.

Mr. Bishop announced Thursday that three North Fork vineyards —  Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards, Sannino Bello Vita Vineyards in Peconic and Waters Crest Winery in Cutchogue — had received approval for changes to their wine labels from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)as a result of his intervention.

While TTB had in recent years approved changes to wine labels within 48 hours, some North Fork wineries waited months this year for minor changes to their labels.

Mr. Bishop learned of the logjam during a meeting  local vintners at a Long Island Wine Council event in late May. He pledged at the time to get to the bottom of the approval slow-down.

Mr. Bishop’s office said in a press release that the growth in the craft brewing industry has led to the doubling of the number of labels submitted to TTB in the past ten years, with 132,595 labels put in for approval last year. At the same time, TTB is also facing staffing cutbacks.

“A fine wine may get better with age, but paperwork does not,” said Mr. Bishop. “Long Island’s wineries are a powerful economic engine and I am eager to help them get their world-class products to market and create local jobs. No businessperson should face unnecessary delays in routine paperwork, and I am pleased that these fine wines will be available for summer tourists and others who appreciate their quality.”

The congressman added that the label issues have been resolved for all the wineries that he was made aware of. He urged winemakers still having label trouble to contact his Patchogue office.

Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery, who had recently changed the shape of the bottles and added the word “dry” to his 2010 rosé label, is relieved by the approval and is now ready to sell 120 cases of that vintage.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “We had a real problem and you couldn’t get anyone on the phone at TTB.  I’m being honest, I think if the Congressman didn’t get involved, we would still be waiting.”

byoung@timesreview.com