Tag Archives: wine labels

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink


“Why didn’t the label say this was a sweet red wine?”

Four things that would make wine more fun to drink after a summer and fall spent traveling and tasting, because I really don’t want to have so many wine complaints:

• Better restaurant wine pricing. I mention this yet again not because I expect it to change, but because so few people in the restaurant business truly understand. I had a restaurateur approach me at a recent event to tell me how wonderful her wine list was. “We’re the only restaurant in this area that cares about wine,” she said. The list? Not awful, and even a couple of interesting bottles, but every wine, even the $8 Big Wine riesling, was marked up at least three times. This restaurant in a tiny town in Arizona was charging $40 for crappy grocery store wine, and the woman was proud of the list. How am I supposed to answer that?

• Back label honesty. I did a tasting this week for cheap holiday wines for a Dallas publication, and what struck me — besides how awful so many of the wines were — was how little the back label description had to do with what the wine tasted like. Soft, syrupy cabernet sauvignons without any tannins were described as elegant, while chardonnay made with so much fake oak that it hurt to swallow were said to be rich and full bodied. How about truth in labeling: “We made this wine to hit a certain price, and it really doesn’t taste like much, but what do you expect for $8?”

If the wine is sweet, call it sweet. Why does the wine business insist on confusing consumers by leaving sweet off the label when the wine is sweet? I realize that the industry has taught “real” wine drinkers that sweet wine is inferior, and that only old ladies with cats drink it. But I’m tired of tasting wine labeled as dry that is sweet, and I have heard from many consumers who feel the same way. Besides, isn’t it possible that sweet wine labeled sweet would sell better?

• Lidl can’t get to the U.S.too soon. The German discount grocer, known for its quality cheap wines, broke ground on a U.S. distribution center last month, and should start opening stores in the next couple of years. If Lidl does wine in the U.S. the way it does in Europe, those of us who care about cheap wine will have an alternative to the wines in the second item in this post. Or, as my brother emailed me during a trip to Europe, “Love Lidl — great wine selection.”

For more on making wine more fun:
Wine education: Four things you don’t need to know about wine
Five things that make me crazy when I buy wine
Five things the wine business can do to help consumers figure out wine

Wine, ingredient labels, and what’s next

Wine ingredient labels

“I not, I not, I not want ingredient labels.”

More news last week that the food business is embracing ingredient transparency, and this included grocery stores — hardly the most progressive part of the food business. So why is wine still so adamant in opposing wine ingredient labels?

Panera, the high-end sandwich chain, said it would eliminate a variety of artificial preservatives, flavors and colors, as well as different kinds of sweeteners, reported the New York Times. This followed news that Nestle, which has been on the wrong side of many of these discussions, would eliminate artificial flavorings and colors from Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, and Nesquik. Meanwhile, Simon Unwins, former chief marketing officer for British mega-grocer Tesco, said it was time for his business “to be seen as leading the fight for less processed foods, on behalf of their customers.” And the woman at the deli counter at my local Kroger spent a couple of minutes telling me how the chain was eliminating fillers in its private label sandwich meat.

Said an expert quoted in the Times story: “To me, this has gone way beyond anything that could even be remotely considered a fad and become a powerful trend.”

Unless, of course, you’re in the wine business. Then you hold your breath, stomp your feet, and pound the table, shouting, “No, no, no, no!” when you do take a breath.

Which doesn’t accomplish much. As the expert noted, ingredient transparency is here to stay, whether the wine business wants it or not. Over the next couple of years, Big Wine will add ingredients and nutrition facts to its wine, thanks to the new voluntary program, and reap the benefits. And, as the rest of the wine business holds out for reasons that no one who isn’t in the wine business understands, consumers will start to wonder if wine has something to hide. The industry squeezed through the arsenic scare, but only because the people doing the scaring were so dodgy. What happens when the next scare comes from a consumer watchdog like the Center for Science in the Public Interest or the federal Centers for Disease Control, hardly well disposed toward wine? Or even the FDA?

Good luck squeezing through then.

One final note: It is possible, despite industry protestations to the contrary, to include nutrition facts on a wine bottle without the world coming to an end. This link shows how Toad Hollow did it on its Risque sparkling wine, which needed nutritional information because it was less than seven percent alcohol. Amazing how easy that was, isn’t it?

Winebits 359: Nutrition and ingredient labels edition


wine nutrition labelsBecause the controversy about soup-style wine nutrition labels is not going away.

What do consumers want? As much information as possible, reported the British wine magazine Decanter, citing a study that says two-thirds of UK adults “actively support” calorie labeling on alcoholic drinks. Not surprising: That four out of five people surveyed couldn’t accurately estimate the calories in a large glass of wine. The study “shows there is now a clear public appetite for this information to be extended to alcohol to help individuals make informed choices,” said the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which paid for it. Sainsbury’s, one of the country’s biggest supermarket chains, said it would put calorie counts on all of its private label alcohol within two years (pictured above).

Let’s not go too far: That’s the opinion of Mike Steinberger, one of the best wine writers working today. “But allow me a moment of devil’s advocacy; while full disclosure on labels (or as much disclosure as a standard wine label will permit) is a laudable goal, there are a few sticking points worth acknowledging. To begin with, the comparison with food is misguided. Unlike food, wine is not necessary for sustenance (it only seems that way), so the need-to-know argument does not carry nearly the same weight.” The longish piece is worth reading, though I don’t necessarily agree with all his points. I think Steinberger overlooks the 20-somethings who are the next generation of wine drinkers, and that labels could change the way they buy wine.

Yes, absolutely:  That’s the opinion of Alice Feiring, perhaps the leading natural wine advocate in the U.S. “For a long time I’ve been in favor of less government in wine instead of more, but in this instance I have to fess up that with so many additives allowed in wine, an ingredient label is best. If there’s an ingredient list for soda, there needs to be one for wine. If you are warned about an orange juice from concentrate, the same should be true for wine that has been reverse osmosed/concentrated.”

More about wine nutrition labels:
Update: Nutrition and ingredient labels for wine
Misconceptions about wine ingredient labels
Diet wine, and why we’re stuck with it

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