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You can't judge a wine by its label -- yet

Hilary Oliver

April 23, 2008

2 Min Read
You can't judge a wine by its label -- yet

People who choose wine solely on the label's appearance might soon be tempted to change their buying habits, as allergen labeling will likely be required for alcoholic beverages by the end of the year.

Though many consumers might not be aware of it, fish, dairy and egg products are often used to process wine, and would likely be required to be labeled as potential allergens, in compliance with a 2004 congressional ruling.

"I know that stuff goes into wine, but a lot of people I talk to don't know that," said Meredith Hudson, compliance officer with Frey Vineyards, an organic wine company based in Redwood Valley, Calif. Frey Vineyards, and some other organic and natural winemakers, use bentonite—a type of clay—to help clarify wine, instead of using an animal product, and would not likely have to label any allergens.

George Hacker, director of the alcohol policies project at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the burden should be on winemakers to find out how much of those processing agents are present in their final products and label allergens accordingly. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is still considering public comment and hashing out details of the labeling requirements.

CSPI has also supported a separate rule—currently being considered by the TTB—requiring more specific information on alcohol labels, including all ingredients, calorie content, alcohol content, serving size and a statement about what constitutes moderate drinking. Some in the industry say that as more detailed labeling is required for wine, the finer wines with fewer additives and preservatives will stand out in the marketplace. "If [consumers] see all these multi-syllabic ingredients in what they're drinking, they might choose products with fewer ingredients," Hacker said.

Barney Feinblum, chairman of Boulder, Colo.-based Organic Vintners, said, "Anything that provides better disclosure for the consumers is a good thing." He said an ingredient list for his company's wines would simply read: organic grapes, sulfites.

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