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Disclosing Wine Ingredients: Arguments For (Part 2)

arguments-for-wine-ingredients.jpg

A little over a week ago, I published a commentary that focused on the more commonly raised arguments against disclosing wine ingredients. In this second post of a two part series, I wanted to highlight the reasons why wineries should voluntarily disclose any and all additives used in the production of their wine.

First and foremost, all consumers deserve to know what's included in the wines they drink. We have just as much a right to know what's in our wine, as we are entitled to know what's in any food item or non-alcoholic beverage. It's time for wine to close the transparency gap with food. Sure, it's an alcoholic beverage, but for all intent and purposes, wine is food. And like most food, it's processed using additives, some of which occur naturally, with most being combined through purposeful intervention by the winemaker. We consumers have a right to know, plain and simple.

Second, disclosure will help consumers become more educated about wine. The EU allows over 50 different components to be used in the production of wine. Like the US, none of these additives, other than sulfites, require disclosure. While some may have no qualm drinking wines that do not disclose ingredients, there are folks like me who want to know what's included. Beyond understanding what's in wine, consumers will hopefully become more knowledgeable about which additives, natural or otherwise, affect a wine's appearance, smell and taste.

Third, full disclosure will help empower consumers to make more informed purchase decisions. Not all wines are alike, therefore transparency will ensure consumers are able to choose wines that align with their palate preferences and health choices. If one doesn't like the fact that a winemaker uses copper sulfate to address a hydrogen sulfide problem, then one ought to know whether or not this is included in their wine.

Finally, having more, not less, information on labels will enable consumers to better connect to the wines they consume. Producers would do well to avoid filling up labels with critters, quotes, and poems. Helping consumers understand how the wine was made is much more important than spinning how they might experience the wine. I hope more producers follow the lead of Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon) and other producers whose bottles feature a list of ingredients. I have yet to hear of sales suffering as a result of this transparency.

Where do we go from here? In my previous post, local winemakers commented on this topic, with one urging the US wine industry to take the lead in defining labeling requirements while another was waiting until a level playing field was created via mandated disclosure. I guess it's going to be up to us consumers to push the industry toward greater transparency, by rewarding those that do at the cash register. I would like to think government intervention can be avoided. But if our purchases aren't enough to motivate the industry, then regulation will be the catalyst needed to move those choosing to hide behind the shaded opaqueness of current laws into the sunshine of full disclosure.

In the meantime, I hope the conversation continues on this topic, amongst consumers and producers alike. What do you think? Please share a comment below with your opinion for or against more transparency with wine ingredients.

Related Links
Are Consumers Ready To Know What's In The Bottle? (MyDailyWine)
Natural Science (oenoLogic)
How au naturel before we lose the point? (Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine)

Comments

The question I have about the contents of wine is what does it really tell you. You can see what is in your Shampoo but can you use the contents to tell if it is a good shampoo? Should the label tell you how the fining was done, should it tell you if micro oxygenation was used, the type of yeast or yeasts, ect, ect? I am not sure that this will help the consumer make an informed decision. I would like to know if there is blueberry juice in my wine but my guess is the vintner is not going to say if he adds this because that would be illegal, so best not to say.

Katgod, an educated consumer could very well become informed enough to understand what ingredients make for a good shampoo, just like they can with wine. Let's allow consumers decide what they are inclined to learn about and decide upon, rather than debating the merits of what's useful or not. Just like our taste worlds, it's all subjective in terms of what's important to a consumer and what's not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

Hi, we are small producers of wine, based in Spain, and we are in favour of disclosure on the labels. Wine is a food product and should be treated the same as any othe food product. We see no reason why the wine should be exempted.
It would certainly educate the consumers (even if they may be shocked and horrified at first!)

Fabius,

What ingredients do you feel would "shock or horrify" the consumer? Unless you're coming from a romantic standpoint, believing that consumers live in the illusion that wine simply consists of grapes, my sense is that most consumers have been exposed to enough labels in their lives to be prepared for the worst.

Gabriela,
Yes, I believe that most consumers are in fact prepared for the worst intellectually/logically/rationally, but I also believe that actually seeing the list of chemicals on the back label would shatter that certain 'mystique' that the wine world still has for many people, even if they know that it's not really like that.
It'll be no big deal - a lot worse things have happened in the world to shatter illusions!! Maybe I suffer from a bit of 'romanticism' myself, even though as a producer I'm privy to a lot more information than the general wine-drinking public!!!
Having said all that, I'm still in favour of disclosure :)

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