Tag Archives: nutrition 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 533: Silly wine descriptions, nutrition labels, and organic wine

Silly wine descriptions This week’s wine news: Silly wine descriptions that are so silly even I don’t believe them, plus the EU takes on nutrition labels and the sad state of organic wine

No sense at all: John Tilson at the Underground Wine Letter has found three silly wine descriptions that prove, again, how little the Winestream Media writes for the average wine drinker. Or for anyone who cares about English. Click on the link and read all three; this, part of one of them, will give you a hint of what’s in store: “texturally silken, supremely elegant effort transparently and kaleidoscopically combines moss, wet stone, gentian, buddleia, coriander, pepper, piquant yet rich nut oils and a saline clam broth savor. …” Know that I am a professional writer who has been paid to do this since I was 15 and have won numerous writing awards, and I have never seen the word gentian. Let alone used it. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Nutrition labels: EU wine producers, as well as beer and spirits makers, will make more nutritional and ingredients information available to consumers, including calorie information for wine, reports Decanter magazine. It’s part of a requirement by the EU that producers improve nutrition and ingredients information for consumers. The story notes there is disagreement between the industry and some public health officials as to whether the information is enough, but it still puts the EU decades ahead of the U.S. Here, nutrition labeling is optional, and most producers don’t do it because they think it will scare or confuse consumers.

No to organic: The U.S. is fourth worst in organic vineyards among major global wine grape growers, reports the Wine Industry Insight website. Just 2.7 percent of U.S. vineyards are organic, compared to industry leader Italy’s 15.5 percent. That’s especially intriguing given the value and popularity of the rest of the U.S. organic industry, which accounts for more than five percent of U.S. food sales.

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

Winebits 488: Cheap wine quality, nutrition labels, restaurant wine

cheap wine qualityThis week, three of the WC’s favorite topics – cheap wine quality, why nutrition labels matter, and restaurant wine prices

Bring on the taste test: An English wine shop hosted a blind tasting, and the £5 bottle (about US$6.50) beat four more expensive wines, including a $40 red Bordeaux. This does not surprise to the Wine Curmudgeon, of course, who has been advocating these sorts of blind tastings for years. The winner was a Spanish verdejo, Abadia Mercier, which is not available in this country. But almost any verdejo – a white wine that is fresh, crisp, and lemony – should do the trick if you want to try a similar blind tasting with your friends. Verdejos, like the Blume, have been the wine of the week on the blog for years, and almost all have cost $10 or less.

Bring on the nutrition labels: Millennials, who are supposed to the future of the wine business, like nutrition and ingredient labels – so much so that a recent study of snack foods should be a “wake-up call” for brands. “When you see a majority of that size say, ‘Fewer ingredients means a snack is healthier,’ that’s a pretty massive shift for the age group, said one of the men who did the study. “Being health-conscious is a smart move and it is transcending the generations right now.” Unless, of course, you’re the wine business, where telling us what’s in our wine is heresy.

Bring on the wine list: A journalist turned wine geek says restaurants charge more for wine that people are more familiar with, like cabernet sauvignon – “a ‘gimme tax’ on glasses of brand-name grapes like chardonnay and malbec. They could charge more because most drinkers see a familiar grape, go on autopilot, and think, ‘Give it to me; I don’t care what it costs.” I’ve never heard this before, though it does seem to explain why some familiar brands are marked up more than wines made with the odd grapes that I like.

Nutritional labels for booze

nutritional labelsOnce again, wine falls behind when it comes to nutritional labels

The nutritional label pictured here is for Bulleit Rye, and should be on bottles this summer (click to make it bigger). Is it perfect? No, since it doesn’t list all the ingredients.

But is it still better than almost anything the wine business has done or wants to do? Of course. Because the wine business still doesn’t think consumers want to know this stuff, still thinks it’s not possible to do on a wine bottle, and still thinks consumers act like it’s 1955.

But Diageo, the company that owns Bulleit, knows better. Understand three reasons why this label matters:

• A shot of Bulleit (which is a very nice rye and fairly priced) has 110 calories – about the same as a light beer. Anyone who doesn’t think that matters to consumers hasn’t spent any time in a grocery store watching people read canned soup labels.

• Notice the lines about where the rye was distilled and bottled. This addresses the controversy (and lawsuits) surrounding craft spirits and how they are made. Diageo is practicing transparency, something the wine business is terrified of doing. Call it MegaPurple paranoia.

• “Made using a 95% rye mash,” though confusing if you don’t know spirits, means the Bulleit has almost twice as much rye as required by law. Legally, it can contain as little as 51 percent rye; the rest would be barley, corn, or other grains. The wine equivalent would be listing how much pinot noir is actually in a bottle of pinot noir. Too many producers meet the 75 percent legal requirement, and flesh the wine out with syrah, grenache, petite sirah, or our old friend MegaPurple without telling us what’s in the other 25 percent.

Finally, my contact at Diageo went out of her way to help me with this post, even locating the Bulleit label in proof. I usually don’t get that kind of cooperation from Big Wine when I write about this subject. I don’t wonder why.

More about nutrition and ingredient labels:
Wine and GMO labeling
Update: Nutrition labels and what the wine business doesn’t understand
Nutrition labels coming to wine — finally

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 420: Drinking is evil edition

drinking is evilThe 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.