Verifying a Wine Standards Management Plan (WSMP): What verifiers do

These are the duties of persons and agencies recognised to verify Wine Standards Management Plans (WSMPs) under the Wine Act 2003, and what wine makers must do to let them carry out their work.

To prepare for verification visits, you need to be familiar with the verification system established under the Wine Act 2003.

Scope of verification: what verifiers focus on

The verification scope defines the particular requirements that verifiers need to focus on in a particular year. The scope always includes traceability of your wine, but the verifier can change other parts of the scope at any time during verification. If the verifier decides to change the scope, they must inform the business and explain the reason for the change.

Since 2011, verifiers are expected to set their own scope, rather than following the scope set by MPI.

Guidance for WSMP verifiers 

Freedom and access to verify a WSMP

When wine businesses sign their WSMP outline, they agree to give their verifier freedom and access to carry out verification functions and activities. This is detailed in clause 24 of the Wine (Specifications) Notice 2006.

Wine (Specifications) Notice 2006 - see clause 24: operator obligations relating to verification functions [PDF, 69 KB] 

Under the agreement, they grant their chosen verifier:

  • access to all winemaking places and facilities, documents, and records
  • freedom to examine, mark or identify wine, winemaking inputs, equipment, or associated things that are within the scope of their WSMP.

A verifier does not have the power to remove items from a winery or to stop production.

If you prevent verifier access

If the verifier is prevented from exercising these rights, they advise their recognised agency and MPI. Find further details in the Wine Notice: Recognised Agencies and Persons.

Wine Notice: Recognised Agencies and Persons - see Part 4.4: Preventing a verifier from performing verification functions and activities [PDF, 365 KB]

Carrying out verification

Verifiers carry out the functions and activities specified in the Notice of Direction under Section 57 (1) of the Wine Act 2003. Verifiers need to be familiar with the following requirements:

  • meeting for the first time – the start-up meeting with a new wine business
  • deciding verification outcomes including managing corrective action requests (CARs)
  • handling the WSMP operator's right of review
  • undertaking performance-based verification.

Notice of Direction under Section 57(1) — Exercise of verification functions and activities [PDF, 32 KB] 

Start-up meeting

Verifiers need to cover certain matters in the start-up meeting with a new wine business. They can develop their own template or use the template prepared by MPI.

WSMP verification – entry meeting checklist [PDF, 149 KB]

Outcomes of WSMP verification

Verifiers must assign an outcome at the end of every verification visit. This decision is based on objective evidence gathered during the verification visit. There are only 2 verification outcomes: acceptable or unacceptable. These outcomes are defined in the Wine Notice: Recognised Agencies and Persons.

Where relevant, verifiers need to assess whether requirements for each of the following have been met:

  • WSMP requirements
  • export requirements
  • overseas market access requirements (OMARs).

In some cases where export requirements and OMARs are not met, but WSMP requirements have been met, it may still be possible for the WSMP operator to sell wine in New Zealand. This depends on the nature of the requirements that were not met. These situations are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Contact MPI for further information by emailing 

Acceptable outcome

The verifier assigns an acceptable outcome to a verification visit when they are satisfied that the objective evidence gathered shows that the winemaker is meeting New Zealand regulatory requirements and relevant export requirements.

The verifier can still assign an acceptable outcome if they are satisfied that:

  • any non-compliances are not critical non-compliances
  • the non-compliances do not meet the criteria for an unacceptable outcome.

You can find a full definition of an acceptable outcome in the Wine Notice: Recognised Agencies and Persons.

Unacceptable outcome

The verifier assigns an unacceptable outcome to a verification visit when the objective evidence gathered meets one of the following criteria.

  • The winemaker has failed to identify or effectively address a 'critical non-compliance'.
  • There are numerous non-compliances that collectively prevent the verifier from having confidence in the operation of the system being verified.
  • The required records are absent, incomplete, or have been altered to a degree that prevents the verifier from having confidence in the system being verified.
  • The verifier determines that the WSMP is no longer appropriate to the operation.

When a verifier assigns an unacceptable outcome, they must explain in the verification report how the evidence shows that the outcome is unacceptable.

You can find a full definition of an unacceptable outcome in the Wine Notice: Recognised Agencies and Persons.

Critical non-compliance with WSMP

When an unacceptable outcome is assigned, the verifier may identify critical non-compliances. This happens if objective evidence shows that one or more of the following may occur:

  • food safety hazards in the wine
  • false or misleading labelling in relation to vintage, variety or area where the grapes were grown
  • activities that jeopardise access to export markets
  • other issues like missing records, no registration, or incorrect WSMP details.

All critical non-compliances must be reported to MPI within 24 hours of the verification visit.

Reporting critical non-compliance with WSMP

Corrective Action Requests (CARs) and recommendations

Where the verifier identifies a non-compliance with Wine Act requirements they issue a CAR, which is linked to the non-compliance. The verifier needs to agree with the operator on a suitable date for closing out the non-compliance and completing the CAR.

If the concern is not one of non-compliance with a Wine Act requirement, the verifier can make a recommendation. This assists the operator with best practice for meeting a regulatory requirement or it can help to make compliance easier or more efficient.

Difference between CARs and recommendations

A CAR is always linked to an identified non-compliance, which must be acted on. A recommendation cannot be made for a non-compliance and the operator does not have to take up a recommendation.

Reviewing an unacceptable outcome

If a verification is assigned an unacceptable outcome, the operator can make a request to MPI to have the decision reviewed. The request must be made within 21 days of the verification visit.

Performance-based verification

Verifications for businesses operating under a WSMP are scheduled in accordance with the Notice of Direction under Section 57(1) of the Wine Act 2003. If you make wine for export, then your WSMP must be verified annually. If you do not make wine for export, verification is done on a performance basis.

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