There are many benefits to making your own wine at home. For starters, it is a fun process with a potentially delicious and cost effective end result. Another benefit for the wine enthusiast is that you can learn to create wines that will perfectly suit your taste. You will no longer have to rely on wines made by other wineries — if you like your wine extremely sweet or on the incredibly dry side, you can concoct just such a wine and enjoy it with your family and friends.
But the question comes up again and again — is home wine making legal or not?
Legality of Home Winemaking
The answer is . . . yes and no.
Before I go into the details of the legality of home winemaking, I would suggest that after reading this brief article, you find out if making wine at home is legal in your state. I can think of at least one state, Alabama, where it is technically illegal to brew any kind of alcoholic beverage in one’s home. Rather than trust my advice implicitly, check with the local authorities before you get yourself in trouble with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Legal Homebrewing History
Now, a brief history of the legality of homebrewing. After Prohibition, the legality of homebrewing was very unclear. It wasn’t until 1979 that the federal government made an explicit decision about homebrewing, and President Jimmy Carter signed into a law a bill that allowed certain amounts of certain alcoholic beverages to be legally brewed in citizen’s homes. Technically, the bill refers to “beer”, but the legalese included in the bill allows for other alcoholic beverages (including sake and cider as well as a very confusing “etc”) to be brewed within legal boundaries. This bill allowed between 100 and 200 gallons of homebrew to be made per year, strangely enough based on your marital status. 100 gallons for single individuals, 200 gallons for married couples. Obviously the federal government has a sense of humor, or at least understands the pressures of married life. Also, citizens are not allowed to sell their beverages (without the standard license offered to other alcoholic beverage retailers) and homebrewers must be 18 years old to brew — and of legal drinking age to drink their wares.
As with any federal regulation, a problem arises when states decide to enforce their own rules. Take the states of Tennessee or Texas. It seems these states allow the federal law to determine their state law — both states allow the standard 100-200 gallon limits of wine or beer to be brewed at home and enjoyed by a family or their guests within certain legal parameters. In opposition to this attitude, some states feel they can police this issue better on their own. In Idaho, for instance, only “beer” made from “native materials” is technically legal — while in Utah, under no circumstances can any citizen of that state manufacture an alcoholic product without a proper license from the state.
While it may appear to be legal within the borders of the United States to brew between 100 and 200 gallons of wine at home, as stated above it is best to check your local statutes. A great resource for doing so can be found here:
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