Tag Archives: ingredient labels

Are we making progress in adding ingredient labels to wine?

ingredient labels

Why does rum have an nutrition facts label, but not wine?

Some small steps are being taken to let wine drinkers know what’s in their wine

The wine industry, terrified that we’ll balk at paying high prices for wine made with ingredients that aren’t grapes, has fought long and hard to prevent wine from carrying ingredient and nutritional labels. Even today, when almost everything else in the grocery store must have those labels, wine is exempt.

But there may progress in letting us know whether our wine is made with industrial adhesives:

Vinepair reports that another small California winery, Donkey & Goat, has added ingredient labels to its wine. It joins a list that includes heavyweights Bonny Doon and Ridge, but which is still not nearly long enough.

• Two studies found that the best-selling categories over the past four years in the beleaguered grocery store business were fresh foods, more often meat and produce, that were “antibiotic free, no growth hormones and free of pesticides or fertilizers.” And how do we know this? Because those products say so on the label.

• The NPD Group, perhaps the leading food consultancy in the country, says about half of U.S. adults are trying eat less sugar and that we check ingredient labels for sugar more often than ever. And what is the leading wine style trend these days? Sweet red wine, which is made with added sugar. But no one knows, since there aren’t ingredient labels.

More about ingredient labels and wine:
• Nutritional labels for booze
• Wine falls further behind in nutrition and ingredient labels
• Wine, ingredient labels, and what’s next

Winebits 518: Three-tier rant, James Tidwell, wine trends

James Tidwell

James Tidwell

This week’s wine news: Top attorney lambastes three-tier, plus an honor for sommelier James Tidwell and a look at wine’s future

A legal blast: John Hinman is one of the most respected attorneys in the country in liquor law. So it’s a big deal that he said: “The wholesalers are dedicated to maintaining their position as mandatory middleman at artificially inflated margins. This is why they continue to perpetuate the fallacy that the three-tier system is necessary to protect the public.” It’s also a big deal that he said it in a post on the wine-searcher.com website, where the stories usually aren’t quite so outspoken. But wine-searcher exists to help retailers sell wine, and they often do so by bypassing the distributors and wholesalers who make up the second tier of the three-tier system. So consider this a shot across the bow of the distributors, and let’s watch and see what happens next.

Well-deserved: I’ve known sommelier James Tidwell for almost my entire career as a wine writer, and few people understand wine or love it the way James does. So it’s not surprising that he has been named one of four finalists for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s prestigious Outstanding Alumni Award. The trust offers wine and spirits education for professionals throughout the world, and its graduates are some of the biggest names in the restaurant and sommelier business. The award will be given Jan. 22 in London.

Ingredient labels: At first glance, the only thing that French wine guru Pascaline Lepeltier and I have in common is that we both like wine. But, as Cathy Huyghe reports in Forbes, Lepeltier sees five keys for wine’s future, and one of them is transparent ingredient lists — something I have written about extensively. Lepeltier told Huyghe that “People are not stupid. Give them the education and they can make the decision themselves. More explanation, more education, more critical thinking.”

Consumers want transparency in what they eat and drink, so why not wine?

Food marketing instituteThe Food Marketing Institute, which gets paid to help sell food, says consumers want to know what’s in what they eat and drink

Dear Wine Business:

We’ve had our disagreements over the years about ingredient and nutrition labels, which I think are crucial for wine’s success in the 21st century. You, on the other hand, don’t seem interested, claiming that it’s too much trouble to fit a label on a wine bottle or that listing ingredients would just confuse consumers.

Both are excuses, and not reasons. That’s because I’m not the only who feels this way. The Food Marketing Institute, whose job is to help food companies market their products, says everything you need to know — but don’t want to acknowledge — in its 2017 report:

U.S. grocery shoppers want more than just information; they desire transparency that engages them, offering assurances of food safety, the pursuit of health and wellness, the appetite for discovery and a closer connection to food.

Wine’s popularity is facing pressure from all over – the decline in Baby Boomer consumption, which brought us where we are today; the indifference of younger consumers, whose tastes run to cider, craft beer, and artisan spirits; the financial pressures facing Millennials, who may not be able to afford to buy wine the way their parents and grandparents did; legal pot; and the neo-Prohibitionists, who insist that drinking is as deadly as smoking cigarettes.

Ingredient and nutrition labels would go a long way toward addressing those concerns, as well as to meet the challenges in the Food Marketing Institute’s report. Not adding labels makes it look like wine has something to hide, which the cynical among us think is what’s really going on. Answer me this: If the additives are legal, be they Mega Purple, a grape juice concentrate used to make wine darker, or food grade gelatin, used to clarify wine, what’s the problem with listing them? Or calories? Or whether wood chips or oak barrels were used?

We both want the same thing – a healthy and thriving wine business that helps Americans enjoy wine. Your approach is short-sighted and ignores the long-term, which is what I’m worried about. Who wants to write a wine blog about the joys of wine when fewer and fewer of us are drinking it?

Your pal,
The Wine Curmudgeon

Dueling columnists: The Times’ contradictory rants about wine

dueling columnistsWhen happens when two articles in the same paper argue for two opposite things?

One of the silly joys during my newspaper days were the dueling columnists – when two of our top writers wrote about the same subject, but did it in completely opposite ways. In other words, the Dallas Cowboys’ coach could be both a genius and an idiot in the same paper on the same day.

So imagine my glee when these two stories appeared in the New York Times. First, Eric Asimov, perhaps the best wine writer in the world, argued for ingredient labels so consumers would know if their wine used what he called artificial or suspect ingredients. A couple of weeks later, though, guest columnist and author Bianca Bosker argued for just the kind of wines Asimov was ranting about.

Can’t you just hear the dueling banjos?

The point here, aside from my giggles, is that they’re both correct. We need ingredient labels for wine, and it’s a pleasure to see Asimov supporting something I’ve been writing about for years. But Bosker’s point (despite her infatuation with Big Wine) is also well made: Thanks to technology, the “gap between fine wine and commercial wine is shrinking. ….”

But because this is wine, we get the either/or – either one is right or the other is, there is no middle ground, and never the twain shall meet. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have ingredient labels, which would help us get more honest and well-made cheap wine?

Isn’t that what I do here? And isn’t that best for everyone?

Wine falls further behind in nutrition and ingredient labels

Nutrition and ingredient labels

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

 

Winebits 378: Box wine, South African wine, nutrition labels

box wine ? Bring on the cartons: Box wine, since it’s too awkward for most store shelves and because consumers are confused about its quality, has been little more than a niche product in the U.S. But all that may be about to change with the news that E&J Gallo will sell a $20, 3-liter box called Vin Vault, which works out to $5 a bottle for something that will be the quality equivalent of $10 grocery store merlot. If Gallo — perhaps the best judge of consumer sentiment among Big Wine producers — figures the time is right for box wine, it probably is (witness the success of Barefoot and Apothic). Look for big-time promotions and price cutting for Vin Vault when it debuts next month, which should also spur price-cutting for Black Box and Bota Box, the brands that dominate the better-quality box wine market.

? Whatever happened to Sebeka? The $10 brand all but disappeared in the U.S. after Gallo gave up on it a couple of years ago, realizing how difficult it was to sell South African wine in the U.S. The wine itself was OK, but as the Wine Curmudgeon has noted many times, South African wines have many problems in this country that don’t include quality. But Sebeka’s new owner figures the time is right to try again, though I have my doubts given this assessment from a Sebeka official: “We don ?t know what will be the next big thing but hopefully it ?s chenin blanc or pinotage. It just needs that one breakthrough that everyone writes about.” I don’t know what the next thing will be either, though I do know it won’t be pinotage or that anyone in the Winestream Media will figure it out. They’re still unsure about sweet red wine.

? Ingredient labels: The recent arsenic scare is about more than contaminated wine; my take is that it’s just one part of the long battle over ingredient labels for wine. So the news last week — and before we found out we’d all been poisoned by cheap wine — that Big Wine producer Diageo would add calorie and nutritional information to its wine is worth mentioning. The company, whose brands include Chalone, Rosenblum, and Sterling, said it wants consumers to know what they’re drinking. In this, reports the Harpers trade magazine, Diageo is the first drinks company to offer the labels. Would that more producers, large and small, had that attitude.