Navigating the extensive guidelines for wine labels enforced by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is no small feat. When you are finally ready to submit your wine labels for a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA), try to avoid the most common errors wineries make during the online submission process.
According to the TTB, these are the top 10 mistakes winemakers make during their online COLA applications:
- High compression - the images that were submitted are not legible
- Image was distorted during upload (resolution error)
- Dimensions used generate a skewed or distorted image on the printable version of the COLA
- Labels not saved and uploaded as separate image files
- Image appears as a Red X – wrong color mode used
- Problems with the Government Warning (Health Warning Statement)
- Terms placed in incorrect fields… i.e. “zinfandel” in the fanciful name section
- Alcohol content and vintage date on labels do not match application
- Trade name appearing in the bottler’s statement on labels does not match the application
- Brand name on the online application does not match the label
Those are the most common reasons the TTB returns applications with the message “Needs Correction.” Half of them are related to problems with the digital image files themselves, or problems uploading them, and the other half address inaccuracies with the application.
The TTB notes that applications flagged as “Needs Correction” will receive a priority review upon resubmission. This information was published on page 118 of the TTB Wine Industry Seminar ~ Trade Investigations Division ~ 2010, available as a PDF here.
How to speed up your TTB COLA application online
TTB also offers advice on speeding up your application. These are the two things that slow down processing of COLAs Online and Formulas Online registration forms:
- Permit number supplied is incorrect, pending approval or not in an active status – TTB will only grant access to COLAs Online and Formulas Online for permits that are in an active status. In particular, you must wait until your permit is approved before you apply for access to these systems.
- Problems receiving emails from TTB – If information is missing from your application, TTB will contact you and request that you send it to them. TTB will also send your username via email. Please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe-senders list to prevent TTB emails from being blocked by spam filters.