Finding a Compliance Solution that Works for Your Winery

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with DTC rules and regulations but there is help out there. Finding a good compliance fit can save you both time and money.


Identifying the Compliance Fit


VineSpring is not a compliance expert, but we are familiar with the landscape of options based on our experience working with hundreds of wineries and partners like Sovos and Compli Beverage. It’s up to you and your winery to decide the role that direct shipping will play in your business strategy and the best compliance solution for your DTC program.

After deciding which states you plan to sell, ship, and get licensed in, you can kick off your program. However, there’s still quite a bit of ongoing work required to maintain a compliant DTC program. Your winery has to manage product registrations, reporting, tax remittance, and renewals. It can be a lot of work, especially if you’re selling in more than five states.

How do you figure out the best solution for your winery’s compliance? Here are a few options.

Manage Compliance In-House


It is possible to manage compliance internally. This is a reasonable option for small wineries that don’t ship high volumes of wine and have licenses in fewer than five states. Check out our Small Winery Compliance article for more details. 

When you’re shipping to fewer than five states, your winery needs to acquire the licenses from those states and then continue to monitor and manage the compliance rules, renew licenses and registrations, submit reports, and pay taxes. For more do-it-yourself compliance tips, read Compliance Considerations for Wineries. 

If you choose this option, the person you select should be operationally-minded, detail-oriented, and have an understanding of tax rates and reporting. 

Pros:

No additional cost outside the extra time required by a member of your team to manage the work.

Cons:

It’s uncommon that members of the winery team are compliance experts. Having someone in-house, handling compliance, could put your business at risk if you don’t hire the right person and they’re not keeping up with the compliance rules, reporting, and renewals.

Use Software to Manage Compliance


ShipCompliant by Sovos is a software system that allows in-house (and outside support as you’ll see below) compliance staff to manage DTC compliance more simply. The system integrates with eCommerce, POS, and fulfillment systems. It also handles state-by-state compliance rules, tax rates, reporting, and registrations.

Once you are licensed to ship across multiple state lines, ShipCompliant's software provides the support of automated compliance and reporting. It prepares orders with real-time tax rates based on the destination of the wine while checking these orders against state rules and regulations.

Pros:

Automated compliance is less work than manually managing all of the latest compliance rules and regulations. This is an accurate and scalable solution as you begin to sell in more states.

Cons:

Depending on your production volume, the software can get somewhat expensive. Using this system doesn't eliminate the need for a person to handle compliance. You will still need someone to manage the system, whether they are in-house or outsourced.


Hire a Compliance Expert


There are some great options out there for those who don’t have someone in-house dedicated to compliance and want to outsource. Some wineries find an expert who takes care of their licensing and reporting needs only or, they pair the services with software like ShipCompliant to ensure full compliance.

A couple of companies that offer outsourced compliance services, specifically for the beverage alcohol industry are:


Compli can augment the work you’re doing in-house, or they can do it all for you. They process ABC/TTB permits, out-of-state licenses, federal and state tax reports, label approvals, and product registrations. They also specialize in compliance related to mergers and acquisitions, audit preparation, and training for in-house compliance departments. Additionally, Compli has software that automates a lot of the work that they do, similar to ShipCompliant’s software. Getting the best of both worlds, with Compli you can get both compliance expert involvement and take advantage of a compliance automation software from the same source.


DH Wine Compliance is another consulting group that offers in-state and out-of-state licensing and reporting services. They take on the responsibility and administration of compliance manually. 

Pros:

A consultant can provide you with a customized option for the size and needs of your winery and provide you with an expert and partner who is invested in making sure your DTC program is compliant.

Cons:

This option is the most expensive option. In some cases, if you choose to hand over all compliance work to a consultant, the level of visibility and control that you have might become limited, and it can be difficult to transition away from an outsourced service provider.

Do What Works Best For Your Unique Business


There are a variety of ways that wineries combine their in-house team members, software, and outside experts to manage compliance for their business. Your approach depends on how many states you’re shipping to, if you need 3-tier support, how many products you have, what your growth plans are, the expertise of your team, and how much you’re willing to spend on compliance.

If you’re not sure which path to follow, reach out to one of the providers listed here—ShipCompliant, Compli, or DH Wine Compliance. These companies have excellent people and experience that they are happy to share with wineries to help you find the right solution for your business.  

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle