Social Media Compliance for California Wineries

GM Law PC discusses social media regulations for wineries.

Q: Are there restrictions on how California wineries can use social media?

Skilled California wine law attorneys not only assist clients with license and permit applications and the purchase and sale of vineyards and wineries, but they also provide ongoing counsel regarding the many complex state and federal regulations on wine production, marketing, and distribution.

Marketing has long been a challenge and potential landmine in the wine industry.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, “tied-house” laws were enacted on the federal and state level to regulate how alcoholic beverages would be marketed and how the three tiers of the industry –suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers – could interact with one another. 

In California, the historically confusing and overly restrictive regulations of the California Alcohol Beverage Control Act were clarified and relaxed a bit in 2019, to the delight and benefit of retailers and wineries. The new legislation updating antiquated tied house rules was specifically targeted at removing some of the social media marketing obstacles wineries and alcohol producers faced—restrictions that didn’t apply to most brands outside of the alcoholic beverage industry. 

The new law—designed to make it easier to effectively promote certain events on visually-focused social media platforms like Instagram Facebook and others—now permits wineries to post pictures in advance “of winemaker dinners, tastings at retail venues with specific licenses and tastings at on-premise venues” subject to certain restrictions. Note, that posting videos remains prohibited.

While expanding wineries’ and alcohol suppliers’ abilities to promote their events through social media is a necessary and welcome change for the industry, the rules and their application remain confusing to impacted business owners and the possibility of inadvertently violating the law remains real. Wine and beverage law attorneys can offer more specific guidance and help businesses avoid these legal pitfalls and their costs.

Further complicating compliance matters is the fact that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and others routinely change their policies concerning how alcohol-related accounts may use the platforms—sometimes with little notice. Take Facebook. 

In July 2019, Facebook reportedly instituted an immediate change in policy impacting content related to alcohol and tobacco products, seemingly driven by concerns over an apparent increase in vaping among the younger population. To remain in social compliance, brands and groups that post content related to the transfer or sale of alcohol must age-gate that content. Different social media platforms have different policies, but restricting and flagging alcohol-related social content to people aged 21 and over are the first steps brands may consider for complying with platform-based policies. 

Contact Our California Wine Law Attorney Today

If you are looking to purchase or sell a vineyard, need assistance obtaining an ABC license or advice on any matter related to compliance issues, the wine law attorneys at GM Law, PC can help. Contact our office today to set up a consultation. 

From our offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley, we help clients throughout California in all aspects of wine law, as well as estate planning and estate litigation. 

Posted in: Wine Law