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:

 

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:

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Darlene M. Brown
P. O. Box 25641
Fayetteville, NC 28314

Phone: (910) 878-1500
Fax: (910) 848-1541
Cell: (202) 997-7376

Wayne Milstead
Tax Audit Division
North Carolina TTB Field Office
1801 Stanley Road
Suite 210
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
Corporations, Limited Liability companies, and Limited Partnerships must register with the North Carolina Secretary of State at (919) 807-2000. You must determine type of ownership and obtain appropriate Articles of Corporation, operating agreement, etc. For more information on registering your business, visit the Start a Business section of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s website.
Step 3: Obtain Licenses
Obtain the following 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:

Step 7: Register for Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes
Wineries selling wine in retail stores will most likely need UPC barcodes for their wines. UPCs can be obtained through GS1 US, a nonprofit organization that regulates the codes. Wineries must register with GS1 US to receive your own identification number for your UPCs. An application fee and annual fee are required and vary depending on your business revenue and number of products. For more information, contact GS1 US at 937-435-3870 or info@gs1us.org.
Wine tasting in NC

Wine Excise Tax

In North Carolina, wine excise tax is payable to the state’s Department of Revenue. Download the excise tax form or contact the Department of Revenue at (919) 733-3641 for more information.

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.