The Wine Institute, which speaks for much of the California wine industry, has responded to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's proposal for changes in wine regulations. The institute would "strengthen" wine standards by requiring a wine with a varietal label to contain 75 per cent of the specified variety. Current law requires only 51 per cent of the varietal be used.

The institute also proposes that for any domestic wine with an appellation of origin or viticultural area claim on the label, 75 per cent of the contents come from the specified area. Wines said to be from a specific vineyard would have a 95 per cent requirement. A vintage label would mean 95 per cent of the contents were produced in the year indicated.

As California produces more than 80 per cent of the wine sold in this country, the trade association's position is significant. The institute's plan will be presented to BATF during hearings here on the bureau's own proposal later this month.

BATF's plan, announced last fall, calls for creation of "AFT Seal" wines. These wines would contain 85 per cent of the grape type named on the label, would come from strictly defined areas, would be 95 per cent from any vintage year claimed and would show the month and year each bottle was filled.

The decision to produce such wines would be voluntary. Wine makers who did not wish to participate would be largely unaffected. But the "AFT Seal" wines would be eligible for importation into Common Market countries, a problem for wines under the 51 per cent regulation, and would have the status of quality products. Advocates see it as a first step toward a quality rating system such as those in use in France, Germany and Italy.

The Wine Institute, however, has declared itself opposed to the plan.

In Institute President John De Luca's statement, he said a government seal "would lead to the unjustified inference of government approval of a higher quality wine . . . There has to be a balance between what the winegrower can provide and the cost and theoretical advantage to consumers.

"De Luca will testify at the BATF hearings.

Admirers of German wines will be given six opportunities this year to attend the popular English language seminars of the German Wine Academy. The Academy is located at Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau. Seminars will begin on May 8, June 19, Aug. 21, Sept. 11 and Sept. 25. Each lasts a week and includes lectures, tastings and tours. The fee, including room (with double occupancy) and meals, is 950 Deutchmarks (approximately $395). For further information and enrollment forms write the German Wine Information Bureau, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Closer to home, in New York City, the Four Seasons Restaurant has annouced the dates for its annual Wine Symposium. Five weeks of classes, on either Monday or Tuesday evenings, begin Feb. 14 and 15. A full spectrum of wine topics, from selection to storage, will be presented. More than 40 wines will be tasted during the classes; cooking-with-wine demonstrations are part of each class. Paul Kovi and David Reilly will guide the classes. Registration fee is $125. For further information write Kovi at The Four Seasons, 99 E. 52d St., New York, N.Y. 10022, or telephone 212-PL4-9494.