Starting a Winery in North Carolina
This section covers the steps you must take to start a commercial winery in North Carolina.
You’ll also need to consider contracts for purchasing grapes or custom crushing, trademarks, wine label approval, getting land valued as farm use for tax purposes, local health department compliance, distributor relationships and employer issues.
Before Starting a Winery
You may produce tax-exempt, unfortified wine for personal or family use of up to 200 gallons of wine per year per two-adult household or up to 100 gallons per one-adult household.
Ensure your property is zoned appropriately by your county or by your city if within limits. North Carolina state law exempts bona fide farms from zoning in a county, but not necessarily in a city. County or city zoning authority determines the limits for a bona fide farm. A vineyard and winery operation should be considered agriculture in most counties.
Have your wine production facility inspected by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB, formerly BATF) prior to obtaining a final permit. It’s a good idea to begin paperwork for both the TTB and ABC six months to a year before your first planned commercial grape crush.
Guides for detailed information about starting a winery:
- Grants and Financial Resources
- Winery Planning and Design by Virginia Tech’s Dr. Bruce Zoecklein
- Writing a Business Plan: A Guide for Small Premium Wineries
Approval will likely be given in the order described here. Call the appropriate offices immediately to receive forms and instructions at the same time.
Steps to Permitting a Winery
Step 1: Contact the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) will provide instructions and forms to obtain the following:
- Bonded winery license
- Facility inspection
- Label approval for each label (each type of wine, each year).
Find more information in these resources from the TTB:
- Common Compliance Issues in a TTB Bonded Wine Premises (BWP) Audit
- Wine Industry Compliance Seminar
- Wine FAQs
Darlene M. Brown
P. O. Box 25641
Fayetteville, NC 28314
Phone: (910) 878-1500
Fax: (910) 848-1541
Cell: (202) 997-7376
Tax Audit Division
North Carolina TTB Field Office
1801 Stanley Road
Greensboro, NC 27407
Phone: (336) 547-0837
Fax: (336) 852-9306
Cell: (202) 997-7363
Product Compliance: (202) 927-8130/8140
Special Occupational Tax: (800) 937-8864
TTB National Revenue Center: (877) TTB-FAQS (882-3277)
Step 2: Register your corporation
Step 3: Obtain Licenses
- City Wine License from your local city hall, if within city limits
- County Wine License from your County Courthouse Tax Collector Division
- State Wine Tax License from the North Carolina Department of Revenue: (919) 733-3641
Step 4: Obtain Permits
Contact the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) at (919) 779-0700 ext. 227 to obtain:
- Winery-related ABC permits
- Resident Unfortified Winery Permit (“on” or “off” premises)
- A Resident Limited Winery Permit is not necessary; ABC will allow you to sample wines at your winery without this even though the legislation doesn’t specify this
- Winery Special Event Permit if you will hold tastings and sales by glass or bottle in approved public places that do not necessarily have “on-premise” permits
- Label approval applications and Distribution Agreement Forms
Submit the following to the ABC:
- Applications and supporting materials for applicable permits as listed above
- Wine analysis for each label (each type wine, vintage additions or deletions, not changes)
- Label approval form for each label (each type wine, vintage as above)
- Distribution Agreement Filing Form (ask your attorney about franchise law in Article 12)
- Vendor Representative Permit for each person physically selling or soliciting orders
Step 5: Obtain Revenue License
Contact the North Carolina Department of Revenue at (919) 733-3641 for Revenue License and instructions for submitting monthly shipment reports (regardless of sales). For additional information, see Sales Tax Guide for Agricultural Products.
Step 6: Order copies of regulations
View or order copies of the following:
- North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws, Rules & Information
- Code of Federal Regulations, 27 CFR Parts 1, 6, 8, 11, 9, and 240
Step 7: Register for Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes
Register Your Winery
Be sure to register your winery (or planned winery) with the North Carolina Wine Office. Please fill out the Winery Form with contact information and details about your winery.
Sign and return the completed Winery Form via email to email@example.com or by mail to:
North Carolina Wine
1020 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1020
If your winery is under construction, please still fill out the form and keep us updated on your progress and future opening date. Also, please let us know whenever any of your information changes.
Once your Winery Form has been received, you will be registered to receive industry news from the North Carolina Wine & Grape Council.
To be eligible for inclusion in North Carolina Wine & Grape Council marketing materials, wineries must have winery and/or wine producer permits. We produce and distribute 200,000 copies of the annual North Carolina Winery Guide and NCWine.org, the North Carolina wine consumer website. To be eligible for inclusion on the map and NCWine.org, your winery must meet the following qualifications:
- Complete the Winery Form
- Obtain all winery and/or wine producer permits (TTB, ABC, etc.)
- Use at least 5% North Carolina grapes, fruit or juice in your total wine production
- Have a tasting room at your winery
- Be open to the public
Once your winery meets all of the qualifications, your winery will be eligible for all marketing materials.
Get listed on VisitNC
To be listed on VisitNC.com and VisitNCWine.com, you must register your winery with your county’s tourism representative. To get listed, see the VisitNC.com Local Travel Bureaus page to find your county’s representative. Be sure to provide hours, location, contact information and any events occurring at your winery.
Whenever you have any changes or additions to your winery information, be sure to update your county contact. All website updates, including event listings, are coordinated by your county representative.
Wine Excise Tax
North Carolina Wine Excise Tax:
- Unfortified Wine (less than 17% alcohol): $0.2634 per liter
- Fortified Wine (17% to 24% alcohol): $0.2934 per liter
Visit the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau website for federal excise tax due dates.