Feds suspend rules on refillable wine bottles

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News,Business,Food and Drink,Government Regulation

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal agency agreed Friday to suspend requirements that would have forced Oregon merchants offering takeout wine in refillable bottles to comply with the same rules as wine bottlers.

"This is news that deserves a toast," said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., at a press conference in Portland where he announced the agency's decision.

State lawmakers last year approved the sale of wine in the refillable bottles commonly known as growlers, already a popular way for beer drinkers to get their fill. But a U.S. Treasury Department bureau said last month that growler sales would be subject to regulations on labels, licenses and record-keeping that apply to wine bottling operations.

Earlier this month, Oregon's congressional delegation asked the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to reconsider its decision. All seven members of the delegation signed a letter to the bureau saying the requirements would be a burden for wine merchants and would limit the sale of Oregon wine.

In response, bureau Administrator John J. Manfreda said it would suspend the ruling and begin a rule-making process to modernize its regulations and solicit comments from the industry, consumers and state regulators.

The bureau does not intend "to unduly burden the lawful sale of wine growlers in states such as Oregon," Manfreda said in a letter to Wyden released Friday.

It was welcome news for Greg Paneitz, winemaker and co-owner of Wooldridge Creek Winery in Grants Pass, who had advocated for Oregon's wine growler law.

"I think everybody's breathing a sigh of relief," said Paneitz, who added that allowing consumers to use refillable bottles helps local wineries like his keep prices competitive.

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Reach reporter Chad Garland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/chadgarland

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