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Nutrition labels coming to wine — finally

Wine serving factsThe labels are voluntary, and wineries that don’t want to add them don’t have to. But voluntary is better than nothing, given the long and tortured history of the proposal.

The plan to add basic calorie, alcohol, and serving information to wine, also called serving facts, has been hanging around Washington even longer than the blog has been in existence — held hostage by the recession, a change in administrations, and the foolishness that passes for government in Washington. In addition, there was determined opposition from most of the beer, wine, and spirits industries, which saw the nutrition labels as costly and burdensome.

So the government agency that regulates liquor came up with the voluntary compromise, no doubt goaded by the biggest booze companies in the world. Diageo, among others, sees it as giving those who use it a competitive edge, and they’re right. Which of us wouldn’t be glad to see this information on a wine label?

A winery that wants to add the labels won’t need to do anything other follow the samples in this link, says Michael Kaiser of the Wine America trade group. Hopefully, many will do it, since the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term costs. An informed consumer is more likely to buy a product than consumers kept stumbling around in the dark by an industry that still acts, in many ways, as if Prohibition just ended.

And mandatory labeling? If and when that happens is anyone’s guess, says Kaiser. And his group still opposes it.

5 Responses to Nutrition labels coming to wine — finally

  1. first.vine@verizon.net' Tom says:

    I’m not sure that having the nutrition info gives a wine a competitive edge over one that doesn’t, but it will be interesting to see. The main problem is that TTB already allows alcohol content on wine labels to be off by as much as 15%, and the new regulation allows calories to be off by almost 10%. So it’s still a rough guide and not necessarily as helpful as it should be.

  2. keithp001@msn.com' Keith says:

    What nutrition? Unless it has residual sugar there is none. Alcohol calories are not a carbohydrate, a fat, nor a protein. I you are diabetic like me then alcohol is a fat replacement as the liver processes the alcohol in favor over fat. If a wine is labeled dry I generally assume and usually right there is not sufficient sugar to make any difference. Without sugar alcohol actually reduces blood sugar. If you want to know calories you can look up wine on line and be as close as food claims. Trying to lump wine with food is not really much of any use. Most people don’t use the ingredient label on anything unless they are looking for something in it they are avoiding like nutrasweet. With wines additives are not present in the wine after fermentation. They are either changed, modified, or gone. I can see the direction of this and it will likely put a lot of small boutique type wineries out of business in the long run. I guess that is what the larger producers want.

  3. Jeff Siegel says:

    It’s all about the calories. If nothing else, that’s what consumers — and especially younger consumers — want to know.
    I actually had a discussion on my Facebook page about labels and the caloric content of wine. Given that I barely use Facebook save for posting links to the blog, that says something about this.
    And Keith, if a small winery goes out of business because of voluntary labeling, I will be the first person to admit I am wrong. Because it’s not going to happen.

  4. donnrut@gmail.com' Donn Rutkoff says:

    Tom’s post about allowing a 15% error factor needs to be fixed. Wine up to and at 14% alcohol by volume, (ABV), is allowed a plus or minus 1.5%, but cannot cross the 14% abv higher excise tax rate barrier. Wines over 14%, in addition to paying the higher excise tax rate, are only allowed 1% plus or minus. A wine that is just over 14% can be labeled as high as 15% but not less than 14.1%. A wine that is just at or slightly under 14% can be labeled as high as 14% or as low as 12.5%.
    Some wineries post as close to actual as possible, some wineries intentionally post a higher or lower number for their own perceived marketing reasons. Steve Spurrier from England recently published a report on hi end Napa wines, and did his own abv analysis, and found that many actually understated, that is wines were found around 16%!!! but listed at 15.1%, in my opinion to disguise how hi they actually were.
    Voluntary labels for nutrition will mostly be ignored by the consumer, just as many consumers ignore it on other foods. And sulfites? Hah. A big source of confusion, that is all it is.
    And Keith comment is worth reading a few times. Thanks to them and to Mr. Curmudgeon for good work.

  5. first.vine@verizon.net' Tom says:

    Donn, +/- 1.5% for a 13% alcohol wine is a tolerance of 11.5%. On a 12% alcohol wine it’s closer to 12.5%. Given the actual ranges of alcohol content on wines, this means it can in reality be off by 15% or so.

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