Tag Archives: wine labeling

winerant

Wine, food, and truth in labeling

farm-to-fable-ledeimageSerious food writing may be more rare than serious wine writing. Usually, it’s poetic rhapsodizing about quinoa and kale, beatifying this week’s hot chef, and barely paying attention to quality, price, or value.

That’s why it was such a pleasure to read Tampa Tribune food critic Laura Reiley, who wrote that some chefs in her region are – and there is no more accurate way to say this – liars. A variety of Tampa area restaurants that claimed they used local ingredients not only didn’t use them, but were buying the same corporate food from the same distributors that sell to the chain restaurants that those chefs love to hate.

Best yet, many of the chefs didn’t understand why they couldn’t lie about it. As one told the newspaper, “We try to do local and sustainable as much as possible, but it’s not 100 percent. For the price point we’re trying to sell items, it’s just not possible.”

So why does this matter to wine? Because, as regular visitors here know, wine also plays fast and loose with labeling. Artisan and hand-crafted, anyone?

The latest: The federal study that found that about one-quarter of wine labels incorrectly listed the amount of alcohol in the wine. Can you imagine the outcry if one-quarter of the ketchup in the grocery store made the same sort of serious labeling error?

At some point, someone who isn’t looking for an arsenic fast buck will do for wine what Reiley did for Tampa’s phony farm-to-table restaurants. And then, when the U.S. consumer finds out that their favorite $20 bottle of wine, with its expressive boysenberry and toasty mocha flavors, used Mega Purple and highly-processed wood chips to get those flavors, there will be hell to pay.

Finally, a note to newspaper bosses everywhere: Read Reiley’s story. See how well done it is. And just imagine that you had the guts and good sense to do something like that at your paper. Maybe the business wouldn’t be in such bad shape, would it?

Illustration courtesy of Tampa Tribune using a Creative Commons license

wine news

Winebits 349: Wine ingredients, 60 Minutes, wine judging

wine ingredients ? Ewwwwww: The Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated ingredient labeling for wine, despite intense opposition from the industry (including many of my friends, who tell me I’m crazy). Still, as the blog’s travel and resort correspondent recently emailed me: “I was offered a glass of wine from a box, from which I happened to read the fine print. It says ‘ascorbic acid added as a preservative’ and there is something added called Allura Red Dye #40 for ‘color stabilization.’ This must be a killer wine because it has other cool stuff, too: pectins, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, esthers, benzoic acid, and keytones. I remember keytones from college ? they ?re a sort of hallucinogen, not unlike mushrooms. The only thing that is a little concerning is a warning that says ‘added catechins and other phenols may combine with aluminum, barium and cadminium creating benzaldehyde ? a known carcinogen.’ But let ?s not worry about that. Man, I can ?t wait to try this stuff.”

? The French Paradox: One reason why I’m here to write this, and you’re here to read it, is because the “60 Minutes” television program ran a story in November 1991 about why the French — who smoked, drank copious amounts of wine, and ate red meat — lived relatively long, healthy lives. The program concluded that the reason was red wine, and the U.S. wine boom — which is still going on — began at almost that moment. The International Food & Wine Society website has a short piece discussing the “60 Minutes” episode, with a clip. Can it really have been 23 years ago? Have wine’s health benefits really done a 180 since then?

? Keep it in context: Dan Berger adds welcome perspective to the debate about wine judging with this article. Unfortunately, given the size of many competitions, judging is about pace almost as much as quality. That means, Berger writes, that “the faster the evaluation, the more often showy wines take the spotlight. As a result, subtlety rarely is rewarded in today ?s wine-tasting world.”

Update: Nutrition labels and what the wine business doesn’t understand

Last month ?s news that the federal government would allow nutrition labels on wine was mostly ignored by the wine business. Hardly anyone wrote about it, and the emails that I got said wine drinkers weren ?t interested in nutrition labels and I would know this if I paid any attention to the real world.

Actually, the reverse is true. Wine drinkers are interested. The problem is that too many in the wine business don ?t understand who their customers are or want they want. More, after the jump:

Continue reading

Winebits 266: Winery start-ups, Mega Purple, beer-wine hybrids

? Money doesn ?t matter: Only two percent of people starting wineries do so to make money, says a new study of winery startups conducted by a University of Missouri researcher. That ?s an amazing figure, even for those of us laugh at the ?How to make a million in the wine business ? joke. The study found that 30 percent of started a winery, because they loved wine, 22 percent wanted to improve their quality of life, 19 percent wanted to farm, and 10 percent did so because of a sense of community. The other interesting number: The number of wineries in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past decade.

? Truth in labeling: Yet another reason why we need better ingredient labels on wine bottles ? a wine additive called Mega Purple, which is grape juice concentrate used to darken the wine ?s color without adding flavor or aroma. This post from Blog Your Wine is fascinating; Mega Purple, apparently, is common in $10 pinot noir, where it ?s used to make the wine look more wine-like. My favorite bit? That Mega Purple is made from rubired and royalty grapes. Yes, that ?s an excuse to use the Wine-Grape Glossary.

? Mix and match: If craft beer isn ?t trendy enough for you, how about craft beer made with wine? Or, dare I say, bwine? Shanken News Daily reports that brewers see a chance to lure consumers to craft beer with the hybrids, which have been developed over the past couple of years. The best known may be Blue Moon Vintage Blonde, produced by a unit of beer multi-national MillerCoors and that includes juice from chardonnay grapes. These bwines, notes the story, are not only popular with craft beer drinkers, but with women wine drinkers.