Wine industry

Workplace relations and Labour Hire

The workforce is key to any business’s success and achieving its potential.  Employment disputes often require careful and considerate analysis to best promote a positive outcomes that do not unnecessarily damage workplace relationships, reputation and compensation.

Why is workplace relations important to the wine industry?

Wine business management practices can promote productivity and profitability, accordingly having clear and concise policies in place to support your workplace practices is essential to ensuring workplace entitlements and obligations are being met.

What is Labour Hire?

Labour hire is a major aspect of the agriculture industry in Australia.  However, the establishment of the Labour Hire Licencing Act 2018 (Vic) and its enforcement counterpart, the Labour Hire Licencing Authority, impose obligations and rules on labour hire providers and host companies (which are the businesses that utilise labour hire employees).

As there are significant consequences for non-compliance, it is best practice to obtain advice to reduce or remove any liability of your business.

How can Coulter Legal assist you?

Our strong workplace relations practice is well equipped to manage these issues and provide guidance throughout every step of the way.  We regularly act in:

  • Unfair dismissals
  • General protections
  • Discrimination claims
  • Union disputes
  • Fair work ombudsman inquiries

Despite having a strong focus on prevention and risk minimisation, employment or industrial disputes may be unavoidable.

Cellar Door Grants / Wine Export Grants

Cellar Door Grants

The Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grants are part of a $50 million package by the Australian Government aimed at boosting the Australian wine sector.  Administered by Wine Australia, each individual annual grant can be up to $100,000 (GST exclusive) for eligible wine producers.  The Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant is designed to encourage wine tourism in Australia, with the grant being available for wine (including cider) producers who own or lease a physical cellar door.

Available for eligible producers and for the incomes of the previous financial year, there is $10 million available annually to be distributed amongst the successful grants.  To be considered an eligible producer there are seven requirements that must be met:

  1. Be a wine producer within the meaning of A New Tax System (Wine Equalisation Tax) Act 1999 (Cth);
  2. Be a legal entity registered for GST and with an active ABN;
  3. Have made at least $1,207,000 (GST exclusive) in sales of rebatable wine in the relevant financial year;
  4. Accrue rebatable domestic cellar door sales in excess of any such sales used to meet the $1,207,000 (GST exclusive) threshold in the relevant financial year;
  5. Have paid the wine equalisation tax (WET) on all eligible sales used as part of the application;
  6. Have owned or leased a physical cellar door in Australia in the relevant financial year, and/or a related entity/ies have owned or leased a physical cellar door in Australia in the relevant financial years; and
  7. Have a liquor licence valid in the relevant financial year.

Documents to be included in an application for the Grant include evidence that a physical cellar door is owned or leased and a valid liquor licence is held.

Wine Export Grants

Designed to help build the capability capacity of small and medium wine businesses, the Wine Export Grant forms part of the $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package.  Eligible wine producers can apply for individual grants of up to $25,000 towards reimbursement for the cost of promotional activities.  Activities that are ‘promotional’ include:

  • Free samples including freight or transport;
  • Trade fairs and forums; and
  • Specific travel costs

The individual grants are available for up to 50 per cent of eligible expenses incurred in the relevant period.

The grants are capped a $1 million and are accessed on a first-come, first-served basis.  To be eligible for a wine export grant, the applicant must:

  1. be a small or medium wine producer with an aggregate turnover of less than AU$20 million and with an export turnover of less than $5 million; and
  2. promote their Australian wine product for export.

Applications can only be made once within the duration of the relevant grant program.

When can I apply for these grants?

The grants are released on a rolling basis, for more information see Wine Australia’s website and keep an eye on Coulter Legal’s insight page for relevant articles.

How can Coulter Legal help?

Coulter Legal can assist with preparing and advising on your application.

Excise Tax (Wine Equalisation Tax)

What are Excise taxes?

An excise tax is a commodity based tax which is payable on alcohol, tobacco and fuel and petroleum products.

Introduced by the government as a way to reduce consumption and the social harm caused by alcohol and tobacco, excise taxes were made payable on these items as they pass through the supply chain.  Ultimately this additional cost is passed on to the consumer with the aim of reducing consumption.  For more information on excise taxes click here

Wine equalisation tax (WET)

Although there is no excise tax on wine products, wine is subject to a Wine Equalisation Tax (commonly abbreviated to ‘WET’).  WET is generally payable on wine that is made, imported or sold wholesale in Australia and accounts for 29% of the wholesale value of the wine.  Generally this is only payable if you are registered or required to be registered for GST.

WET applies to products with more that 1.15% alcohol and which are classified as wine under the A New Tax System (Wine Equalisation Tax) Act 1999 (Cth), which includes products such as mead, grape products and cider.

WET credits and rebates

It is important that you stay on top of your WET payments.  However, should you pay WET in error, or overpay you may be eligible for a WET credit.  Similarly, WET credits are available where you have paid the tax on a wine which has already had WET paid on it.

Wine producers may be eligible for producer rebates of the WET amount paid on dealing with wine in certain circumstances, with the maximum amount of the rebate capped at $350,000 each financial year.

To be eligible for this rebate, a wine producer must meet the relevant eligibility criteria.  This depends on the winemaking process employed and the year that the wine was produced.  The pivotal date for these requirements is 1 January 2018, with the criteria changing for vintages produced before or after this date.  The amount that can be claimed for each financial year also changes according to this date, with the cap relating to rebates for wines produced before 1 July 2018 rising to $500,000.

Am I eligible?

As mentioned above the eligibility criteria for the WET rebate alters depending on whether the wine you are claiming a rebate on was produced before or after 1 January 2018.  However, there are some common requirements to meet the criteria, including:

  • Being the producer of the wine;
  • Being liable to pay WET or sell the wine to a producer who has quoted that they are liable for WET on any subsequent dealing in the wine; and
  • Owning the source product that makes up at least 85% of the total volume of the wine through the wine making process.

How can Coulter Legal help?

If you need assistance with claiming a rebate or credit or wish to know more about the applicable regulations and taxes for wine products, please contact the experienced team at Coulter Legal.

Wine Australia Regulations

Wine Australia is the statutory authority responsible for research and production, promotion and the export of Australian wines.  Governed by the Wine Australia Act 2013, Wine Australia is also involved in relevant grants, regulations and export controls.

Australia’s regulatory regime is broad.  The following sections give a snap shot of some of the common issues and requirements of Australian wine producers.

Label Integrity Program (LIP)

The aim of the LIP is to ensure that the truth of statements made on wine labels or which are made via other ways for commercial purposes regarding vintage or the geographical indication of wine manufactured in Australia.

The LIP applies to wine grape growers, manufactures of wine goods, suppliers or receives of wine goods (including wholesale, retail or exporting of goods) and agents who take possession of wine goods.  All parties in the supply chain must keep an auditable document trail.  Details that must be recorded include items such as the date the wine goods were received or supplied, the quantity and vintage of the wine goods received or supplied and the identity of the supplier or customer.

This process of recording keeping and auditing is used to verify labelling claims made about a wine goods’ characteristics, including vintage and variety.

Domestic Wine Labelling

Wine labels are governed by a variety of legislation but include regulations around brand names, designation, allergens and vintage.

There are two groups of requirements for wine labels: mandatory labelling requirements and additional labelling information.  Mandatory labelling requirements include aspects of a label such as the designation, the volume statement and alcohol statement.  Other aspects such as vintage, variety and geographical indication are not mandatory to appear on the label but if they do so, must meet the relevant requirements.  Additional labelling information includes aspects such as the brand name, language and maps.


Wine producers who are looking to export their product must ensure they abide by the relevant regulations.  All shipments over 100 litres require export approval which includes the steps of obtaining a licence to export, registration of product and obtaining an export permit by submitting a shipping application.  The destination of the exported wine must also be considered as some continents have additional requirements and their own import regulations.  One such example is the European Union, in which a specific type of certificate must be issued after an export permit has been granted.

In addition to these exporting requirements, exporters and are also required to pay the Wine Export Charge and other related fees, including shipping and licence applications.

How can Coulter Legal help?

To ensure the compliancy of your product with the relevant regulations it is important that you seek professional advice.  The team at Coulter Legal are able to provide advice and assist you achieve your desired outcome.

Trade Marks and Intellectual Property

Intellectual property covers a variety of areas such as copyrights, trade secrets and trade marks.  It is important to protect the intellectual property that you have worked hard to develop, not only for the sake of your brand’s business and reputation but also for your own protection in complying with relevant laws and regulations.

The label or brand name that you create and build reputation around will become the easily identifiable feature of your business and product.  It is therefore important that you ensure its protection.

It is also necessary to consider the availability of your potential future trade mark in in the design phase.  Doing the due diligence at the start of design to see what is available in the current market can save disappointment and cost further down the track.

How can Coulter Legal help?

For more information on intellectual property and trade marks, read more here or get in contact with the expert team at Coulter Legal.

Hospitality Industry Advice

We understand that many wineries operate associated cafe’s restaurants and even accommodation as part of their cellar door experience.

The Australian hospitality industry is heavily regulated with rules and legislation relating to the service and sale of alcohol, the preparation and sale of food and provision of accommodation. Our team are well equipped to assist our clients across the following areas:

  • Purchasing or selling business;
  • Business structuring;
  • Liquor licencing;
  • Food safety regulations;
  • Insurance;
  • Occupational health and safety ;
  • Human resources and workplace relations;
  • Retail and commercial leasing;
  • Supply agreements;
  • Trademarks and branding;

How can Coulter Legal assist you?

Our team have extensive experience across the entire hospitality sector from buying and selling premises to work place relations and occupational health and safety.

It does not matter whether you are running a small cafe or a large scale tourist facility, the Coulter Legal team can assist with any hospitality related queries.

Get in touch with us today

If your require any further information please contact our Agri Business team

Contact Form
or call us on 03 5273 5273