Disclosing Wine Ingredients: Arguments Against (Part 1)
Recently, I have engaged in a debate on the merits of disclosing wine ingredients and have come away surprised at the arguments that have been made against my stance. While the counterpoints are numerous, I have yet to hear an argument against disclosure that holds any water, one that might make me take pause and rethink my stance on this important topic.
In the first of a two part series, I thought it would be useful to summarize the arguments I have heard thus far and why each of these suffers in terms of its power of persuasion. In my next post, I will highlight the reasons why wineries should voluntarily disclose any and all additives used in the production of their wine. Here are the arguments I have heard most often against disclosing wine ingredients:
First, there is the argument that disclosure will only lead to confusion and even worse, over-reaction by consumers. This point carries the implicit assertion that consumers are incapable of processing information, let alone deciding for themselves what they should or should not consume. It suggests that consumers should be kept in the dark, that an ignorant consumer is preferred to an informed consumer. If consumers can process and determine whether or not high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is good for them, then they can surely ascertain the pros and cons of certain additives in wine.
Second, there is the naive argument that wine is natural, therefore why disclose anything? This assertion is related to the point above, in that both depend on keeping consumers in the dark. The reasoning goes that if consumers were to become aware that many wines contain unnatural additives, then they might at best realize it's no longer natural and at worse over-react! Let's hope there is an over-reaction to the crap going into some wines, whereby consumers become informed enough to stop buying/consuming certain products that are unnatural and unhealthful.
Third, there is the argument that revealing wine ingredients will increase costs, as producers will need more label space to accommodate these disclosures. This holds little weight, as any quick check of wine labels on retail store shelves reveals the following: there is plenty of space available to include a list of ingredients in each wine. In fact, those that add few ingredients to their product, should not worry about space constraints, for it is the over-additive wines that require the most text. Even in cases where the back label is crowded with irrelevant marketing hyperbole, consumers would be better off knowing what's in the bottle.
Fourth, there is the argument that that it's the alcohol that folks need to worry about, as everything else in the wine is of secondary concern. This is about as sensical as stating that consumers need not care what goes into their beef, as clinical studies suggest red meat leads to cancer and heart disease. If the beef is bad for you anyway, why care about anything else that might harm you? I enjoy red meat as a component of my diet, albeit in moderation, but I still care whether or not the cows were injected with antibiotics or other chemicals in their development. Why should wine be any different?
Finally, there is the classic fear-mongering stance, whereby a discussion on this topic evolves into an assertion that the FDA will impose full disclosure of both ingredients and nutritional facts on the back of every bottle. Therefore, producers are going to have to cover their bottles with large labels or create multi-page, fold out labels to accommodate mandatory disclosure. I have yet to hear of any legislative or regulatory effort that will require the full disclosure of ingredients and nutritional facts on bottles of wine. In the absence of any evidence this is underway, this argument is used only to instill fear.
Let's hope we never reach a point where wine producers are forced by Federal regulators to disclose the ingredients in their product. Instead, I hope wineries follow the lead of many producers who are already disclosing on their labels and web sites what goes into each wine they make.
I welcome comments for and against disclosure of wine ingredients, especially any logical positions that might compel me to rethink my position. Please share your thoughts here, but by all means please spare us these worn out arguments against informing consumers what goes into the wines they drink.