Can I charge a membership fee for a winemaking club without having a license to sell wine?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Getting a license to sell the wine I make seems burdensome. Could I instead start a winemaking club where members help make the wine, and their membership gets them a certain amount of wine?

—Jason, La Crosse, Wisc.

Dear Jason,

I checked in with my contact at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and he said that if your proposed club follows the TTB rules outlined for home winemakers' centers, then those activities could qualify the wine as made for “personal use.”

Home winemakers' centers are places where people pay a fee to use space and equipment. These centers do not need to qualify under federal rules as a bonded winery (or pay federal excise tax on wine), as long as the customers are of legal age and only use the wine for personal use, among other restrictions. And as the operator, you would be subject to all state and local permit, license and tax requirements. You can find out more at the TTB’s wine FAQ page.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Legal and Legislative Issues Taxes

More In Dr. Vinny

Will my wines get too cold in the garage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny covers the pitfalls of storing wine in the garage, …

Jan 11, 2021

Dr. Vinny's 25 Top Answers to 'What's the Difference Between …?'

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers disambiguations for wine topics far and wide.

Jan 4, 2021

Dr. Vinny's Most Interesting Questions of 2020

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits the most thoughtful questions …

Dec 31, 2020

Dr. Vinny Answers Your Pandemic Questions (About Wine)

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits all your questions about wine …

Dec 28, 2020

Why is the name “Sauvignon” attached to both red Cabernet Sauvignon and white Sauvignon Blanc?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the relationship between Cabernet Sauvignon and …

Dec 21, 2020

Is it true that wines only improve for about five years after bottling?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that improvement and ageability are a matter of …

Dec 14, 2020