Not on my wine bottle, you don’t.
Costco is lending money to its small suppliers so the warehouse giant will have more organic food to sell. An on-line retailer has launched a campaign against misleading olive oil labeling. Class action lawsuits against food companies over extravagant claims are becoming increasingly common. And Walmart — the same company that has stood for everything that’s wrong with post-modern U.S. retailing for decades — has pledged to sell only cage-free eggs.
But the wine business, its head firmly buried in premiumization and the idea that consumers aren’t sophisticated enough, still sees nutrition and ingredient labels as an evil to be avoided at all costs. How is this possible, given all else that is going on? Why does wine act like it’s still the 1950s when everyone else seems to be marching boldly into the 21st century?
• Because we’ve always done it this way — what I like to call the cork mindset. Why do bottles still have corks, which aren’t the most efficient or effective way to close a bottle? Why do they still have punts, the hollow space on the bottom of the bottle, when technology has made punts obsolete? Because wine bottles have always had corks and punts, and if we get rid of them the world will come to an end!
• There isn’t enough room for nutrition and ingredient labels on the bottles, the so-called “label aesthetic.” Right, because there is so much on the back label that the consumer can’t live without. This also begs the question of how enlightened producers like Ridge and Boony Doon manage to fit ingredient labels on their wines.
• If we tell them what’s in the bottle, they won’t understand. Of course we won’t. We might also get angry and stop buying the wine. It’s not so much that federal law allows winemakers to use more than 60 things that have little to do with grapes (polyvinyl-polypyrrolidone, anyone?), but that we’ll find out that these “ingredients” are in wine that isn’t cheap. What would we do if our $18, 92-point bottle was loaded with Mega Purple to boost color and sweetness and aged with oak shavings in a bag because shavings cost two-thirds less than oak barrels?
When Walmart is more progressive than the wine industry, something is very, very wrong.
More about nutrition and ingredient labels:
• Update: Nutrition and ingredient labels for wine
• Update: Nutrition labels and what the wine business doesn’t understand
• Nutrition labels coming to wine — finally
The neo-Prohibitionists were in the news again last week, reminding us that drinking is evil and we’d better quit — or else.
? Stop drinking and do it now: The British government has decided that “there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption and drinking just a small amount may in fact increase the risk of some cancers.” As part of this, the government is lowering the amount of alcohol that one should drink to about six glasses of wine a week, and telling drinkers to abstain two days a week to allow their livers to recover. And all those studies that point to a red wine health benefit? Nope — there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption” for the middle aged.
? Wine producers are liars: I wasn’t going to write about this, since the study has several problems — as one of its authors admits — but a reader’s email changed my mind. The study intimates that U.S. wineries lie about the amount of alcohol in their products to get us drunk. And when that happens, who knows what evil lurks just around the corner courtesy of Demon Rum? This story is also another reason not to pay too much attention to wine coverage in the Washington Post that isn’t written by my pal Dave McIntyre.
? Bring on the labels: One reaction to the neo-Prohibitionists has been Big Wine’s enthusiasm for nutrition labels, which is about the only good thing associated with the neos. The latest convert is the world’s biggest beer company, which pledged to include full nutritional and calorie information on 80 percent of its United Kingdom beer packaging by the end of 2017. “Consumers are getting savvier about their daily calorie consumption and are actively looking at nutritional information,” said a spokeswoman. “While the EU continues to discuss the best way forward for nutritional labeling in our industry, we want to give consumers the information they need at their fingertips to make well informed choices and enjoy our products responsibly.” We’ll ignore that most of the companies who do this are doing so to get ahead of the liquor cops.
The Wine Curmudgeon’s views on nutrition and ingredient labels for wine are well known: The wine business is missing an opportunity to reach younger consumers by stonewalling the labels.
But not everyone shares my view, and my piece in the current issue of the Beverage Media trade magazine looks at the topic from a variety of perspectives. The highlights of the article, as well as a few of my thoughts, are after the jump: Continue reading
Not coming soon to a wine bottle near you — the nutritional content of wine.
In which there is no update at all. Which probably means that the plan to put a box with the calories, ingredients and the like on wine is dead.
The official word from Thomas Hogue, the spokesman for the the federal agency overseeing the proposal, is that there is nothing to report about what is officially known as "serving facts" information for wine. The proposal has taken many shapes since it was first brought up in 2003 (so long ago I wrote a newspaper story about it, which appeared in another form here), but it would mostly look like the current serving facts box on light beer.
Representatives of WineAmerica and the Wine Institutute, the trade groups that represent most of the country's wine producers, also said they weren't aware of any developments. They have followed the proposal because their members, for the most part, don't want to be forced to add the labels.
More, after the jump: