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