Wine Labels, Wine Ingredients

More on the wine labeling issue at Maker\’s Table:

Speaking as a marketer, though, I understand the complexities of this choice. First, I know that many consumers don’t share this level of interest in how their wine came to be. Some may care more that a wine taste the same from one vintage to the next, and so may be more willing to accept additives or other interventions in order to achieve such consistency. That’s not truly an argument against ingredient lists, though, because these folks could ignore the lists if they chose—assuming they actually understand what all that stuff is.

Relatedly, wine labels listing bentonite, isinglass, polyvinylpolypyrrolidone, and similar compounds do run risk of unnerving the public, or at least leading it somewhat astray. I saw this first hand when I worked in consumer sales at Bonny Doon Vineyard, a winery dedicated to ingredient and process disclosure.

On one occasion, we sent to media samples of a red whose label stated that untoasted oak chips were used in the winemaking process. In his review, a writer remarked that the wine tasted too oaky to him, and that he’d wished we’d skipped the oak chips. These, though, had been used only to stabilize the anthocyanin during fermentation; they were in contact with the must for a short time, and did not add to the flavor profile of the finished wine. Moreover, the wine hadn’t spent much time in barrel during élevage, so I wondered whether the reviewer had mis-ascribed the grippy tannins of a young wine to something he’d read on the label. In this case, the oak chips disclosure was a ruby-red herring.


2 responses to “Wine Labels, Wine Ingredients”

  1. Thank you for excerpting a portion of my article on wine ingredient disclosure. In it, I advocate full disclosure, while addressing some of the arguments against it, as above. I do want your readership to know that I stand in support of transparency, and that this excerpt doesn’t comprise the full breadth of my position. I encourage those interested in the topic to click through to the full story, and to read the comments stream, too.
    Thank you,
    Meg Houston Maker, MA, CSW
    Maker’s Table

  2. George Vierra Avatar
    George Vierra

    There are many writing about “natural wine”. It is almost certain that 1 to 1.5 million years ago Homo erectus collected and ate the wild grapes in the South Caucasus of present day Georgia. They must have had methods to collect and carry the grapes. Did they collect the grapes and share them with others? It must have occurred on occasion that a good amount of the red Vitis vinifera were left behind and later revisited. The Homo erectus upon return probably found the grapes a bit “tingly” on the tongue. They also found the pool of juice collecting below the grapes was quite nice to drink. After eating the grapes and drinking the juice they got a bit cheery. Soon, drowsiness set in and naps were had.

    This is probably the definition of the first natural wine. All else is tinkered wine.

    George Vierra
    Viticulture & Winery Technology
    Napa Valley College
    12 May 2010

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