Update: Nutrition and ingredient labels for wine

Nutrition and ingredient labels for wineThe 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:

The technical term for the labels is “servings facts,” and they can look like the chart on a can of soup or bottle of ketchup or (oddly enough) the paragraph style on something like ramen noodles. Late last year, the federal government issued a regulation to allow wineries who want to add serving facts to do so, but they still aren’t required.

But that’s just the beginning:

• One of the difficulties in following developments is that different federal agencies have different label responsibilities. The Food and Drug Administration oversees food labels, because they includes nutritional content. The Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees alcohol regulation for the U.S. Treasury, makes rules for alcohol-related labels and uses different criteria. So what’s required for tomato soup may not be good for wine.

• The wine industry’s opposition to serving facts has not wavered in the decade-plus that the labels have been under discussion. It cites cost, a too-crowded label, burdensome regulation, and the government’s inability to enforce the law on imported wine. One of the best examples of their fear? This article (behind a paywall), written by a couple of lawyers for Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, “Requiring ‘Serving Facts’ on Wine Labels Could Prove Costly.” My favorite part of this article: Since wine is consumed for pleasure, it doesn’t need labels.

• A serving facts label includes serving size, and the industry is worried that its idea of serving size could be radically different from the federal government’s, especially on higher alcohol products.

• There is also the unspoken fear, says Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, that wineries “don’t want people to know the various tricks and certain stylistic effects that they use on their wine.” This includes the 60-some ingredients legally allowed in wine that aren’t grapes, including Mega Purple (grape juice concentrate used to darken red wine), oak chips, and things like egg whites and isinglass, a fining agent made from fish bladders, and something called polyvinyl-polypyrrolidone, an industrial adhesive.

• The industry is also worried, says Grahm, a long-time proponent of labels, that any additional sulfite information would “freak out” consumers, given the great urban myth surrounding sulfites.

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