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Wine Imports: 8 things you need to know

The attorneys at O&W advise companies on importing wine and other wine products from third countries.

Unlike sparkling wine and other intermediate products containing alcohol, pure wine is NOT subject to the alcohol or sparkling wine tax in Germany.

However, identifying the products and classifying them correctly in the customs tariff can sometimes be difficult and sometimes expensive.

Our attorneys would be happy to assist you with the customs declaration in order to avoid high tax back payments at customs.

Wine imports from non-European countries also require approval by the customs authorities.

Since the beginning of August 2020, the main customs office of Koblenz-Zollamt Hahn-Flughafen has been responsible for the clearance and authorisation of wine imports from third countries.

Customs and tax issues can therefore quickly arise as well as problems with wine imports.

Our attorneys for customs law and excise tax legislation can provide counsel on matters such as:

  • the authorisation of wine imports from third countries
  • the correct customs tariff number for wine products
  • the subsequent claim by customs for the tax on sparkling wines and intermediate products
  • the question of whether excise duty is payable
  • for questions regarding labelling and packaging

Questions about wine imports from third countries?

Our attorneys for customs law and excise tax law would be happy to advise you and your company on questions of excise tax or customs tariff number at Wein & Co. and support you in case of any difficulties with customs.

When may importation take place?

If you want to import wine from non-European countries, the goods must meet the following criteria:

  1. Harmless to health
  2. Suitable for consumption
  3. Compliant with the applicable European regulations
  4. Placed on the market in the country of production with the intention of being consumed unchanged

Wine and wine-sector products from non-European countries must therefore comply with the rules on production, marketing and delivery for human consumption.

What must NOT be imported?

Wine products which:

  • are not of fair and marketable quality
  • have not been produced using authorised oenological practices.
  1. Erfüllung der Ursprungsbezeichnungen, geografische Angaben und Kennzeichnungen – diese Bescheinigung muss von einer amtlichen Stelle im Drittland ausgestellt werden
  2. Analysebulletin durch ein vom Drittland anerkanntes Laboratorium – wenn die Ware für den direkten menschlichen Verbrauch bestimmt ist

Authorisation and import clearance

Additionally, companies wishing to import wine from third countries must be authorised to do so.

Since August 2020, the main customs office Koblenz-Zollamt Hahn-Flughafen is responsible for authorization and checks the eligibility of wine products for import when making the customs declaration.

The special import accompanying document V I 1 is the most important document required for the authorisation to import.

In exceptional cases where importation is permitted without authorisation, the goods may be released for the customs procedure at any customs office.

Accompanying documents for wine importation

In order to be allowed to import a wine from a non-EU country in the first place, the importer must not only submit the usual documents for customs declaration such as the commercial invoice, import declaration and customs application.

An additional special import certificate is required — the import accompanying document V I 1 (document for the import of wine, must and grape juice).

The import accompanying document V I 1 certifies two conditions:

  1. Compliance with designations of origin, geographical indications and labelling – this certificate must be issued by an official body in the third country
  2. Analysis report by a laboratory recognized by the third country – if the goods are intended for direct human consumption

Companies can see on a list from the European Commission which authorities and laboratories are authorized to issue import documents.

Note: The V I 1 import accompanying document may only be used for a single lot*. Partial consignments require a separate certificate for import, the V I 2 partial document.

*A consignment is the quantity of goods sent by the same consignor to the same consignee.

Privileges for wine import

When importing wine from certain countries into the EU, however, there are also privileges. In this case, only the usual accompanying documents such as the commercial invoice, an import declaration and a customs application are required for import.

Thus, the EU has made agreements with some countries to facilitate the trade in wine products.

Such agreements exist with the following countries:

  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Australia

Companies can also derogate from certain formalities if they import wine products into the EU only in small quantities or for specific purposes. In this case the V I 1 import accompanying document is not required:

Small Volume Control

The import accompanying document V I 1 shall not be required for the following third country imports of wine products:

  • Container holds max. 5 liters, correct labelling, non-reusable closure, and total quantity is max. 100 liters
  • Shipments from and to private persons at max. 30 liters / shipment

  • Customs tariff number: Wine & Co.

    The correct tariff classification for wine products is crucial for successful customs clearance.

    Unlike other European member states, Germany has no alcohol tax on the import of non-European wine.

    But when is pure wine available and when are sparkling wines or other intermediate products subject to excise duty?

    The Combined Nomenclature and the law on the taxation of sparkling wine and intermediate products provide a remedy to this problem.

    Wine is defined as beverages that are classified under the following positions of the Combined Nomenclature:

    What is wine?

      Products of heading 2204 or 2205 of the CN
      Condition: Alcohol content (produced by fermentation) between 1.2 % vol and 15 % vol in the finished product OR alcoholic strength by volume (obtained by fermentation) between 15 % vol and 18 % vol in the finished product, produced without enrichment
    • Products of heading 2204, 2205 or 2206 of the CN
      Condition: Alcohol content between 1.2 % vol and 10 % vol and no taxation as beer
      Products under heading 2206 of the CN
      Condition: alcohol content (produced by fermentation) between 10 % vol and 15 % vol and no taxation as beer


    The following beverages are classified as “sparkling wine” on the basis of the SchaumwZwStG and the customs tariff:

    What is sparkling wine?

    The following beverages are classified as sparkling wine:

    • beverages bottled with sparkling wine stoppers fixed by a special holding device, or
    • beverages which have an overpressure of 3 bar or more at + 20°C – this is caused by carbon dioxide dissolved or artificially added during fermentation
    • classified under tariff heading 2204, 2205 or 2206 according to their alcoholic strength and composition


    Products classified as sparkling wine must also comply with certain limits on alcohol content:

    The goods must have an alcoholic content of at least 1.2% vol, but a maximum of 15% vol.

    In the case of sparkling wines with an alcoholic strength of between 13 and 15% vol, the alcohol must also be necessarily and exclusively produced by a fermentation process.

    Also intermediate products are subject to alcohol tax in Germany.

    What are intermediate products?

    • Fermented products to which distillation alcohol is added
    • Alcohol content between min. 1.2 % vol. and max. 22 % vol
    • Not sparkling wine or wine
    • Not taxed as beer
    • Classification in customs tariff numbers 2204, 2205, 2206

    Taxes and duties for sparkling wine & Co.

    All wine products are subject to an import sales tax of 19%.

    For sparkling wine and intermediate products an additional excise tax, the so-called sparkling wine tax or intermediate product tax, applies in Germany.

    Relevant for the amount of the excise tax are the quantity of finished beverages and the respective alcohol content.

    Depending on the product, the tax can therefore vary.

    In the following you will find an overview of the respective tax rates:

    ProductAlcohol ContentTax rate/ 1 hlTax rate/ 0,75l Flasche
    Sparkling wine>6 % vol136,00 Euro1,02 Euro
    Schaumwein<6 % vol51,00 Euro0,38 Euro
    Zwischenerzeugnis>15 % vol153,00 Euro1,15 Euro
    Zwischenerzeugnis≤ 15 % vol102,00 Euro0,76 Euro
    Zwischenerzeugnis*≤ 15 % vol136,00 Euro1,02 Euro
    Sparkling wine and intermediate product tax (source: Customs)

    *Applies only to those with an alcohol content of up to 15% vol. which are either filled in bottles with sparkling wine stoppers and special holding devices or have an excess pressure at + 20°C of 3 bar or more due to dissolved carbon dioxide

    Labelling for wine import

    When importing wine from third countries, companies must also comply with European regulations regarding the labelling and packaging of the goods.

    In particular, the producers and bottlers of wine products have new obligations since a change in European law in 2019.

    Wines for which the geographical origin cannot be determined and labelled more closely than the country of origin must contain additional information on the labelling.

    In this case, the following mandatory information is required by law:

    1. Type of productsuch as wine, sparkling wine, semi-sparkling wine
    2. Alcohol content in % vol. in full or half units
    3. Sugar content by terms such as tart, dry, mild, etc.
      for sparkling wine, aerated sparkling wine, quality sparkling wine and quality aromatic sparkling wine
    4. Allergen Labelling
      especially of sulfites / sulfur oxides, egg products & dairy products
    5. Nominal volume
      observe common filling quantities (0.25l, 0.375l, 0.5l, 0.75l, 1.0l, 1.5l)
    6. Origin incl. type of product
      e.g. Brazilian sparkling wine
    7. Lot identification (coding for traceability)
    8. Filler data
      if the wine was bottled within the EU
    9. Data of the importer
      if the wine was bottled outside the EU in containers with a volume of up to 60 l
    10. [/contentblock]

      Permitted, but not mandatory, are voluntary statements, such as the vintage year of the wine product, taste indications such as sweet or dry, the name of the grape varieties or designations such as red and white wine.

      The following information, among others, is prohibited if it is not true:

      • Trademark
      • Recommended use for the consumer
      • Method of production and color of the product

      Packaging for wine products

      Since 2019, packaging must be registered by the manufacturer before it is put into circulation.

      There is also a reporting and licensing obligation for manufacturers: the quantity of packaging that the company is expected to distribute per sales year must be reported and licensed.

      Who is a producer?

      The producer is the first person to circulate the packaged goods commercially in Germany.

      Note: This obligation therefore also applies to importers of wine from other EU member states and third countries.

    Attorney Dr. Tristan Wegner

    Ihr Ansprechpartner

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