Ridge Vineyards has opted for ingredient labeling to promote its non-interventionist approach and encourage greater transparency in winemaking.
image from englewoodwinemerchants.com
All the wines from the renowned Californian producer’s 2011 vintage now carry information identifying every addition to the wines, including an explanation of why and when water might be used, as well as egg whites and tartaric acid.
In a letter to Ridge customers sent to the drinks business earlier today, chief winemaker Paul Draper said his motivation for ingredient labeling was to differentiate the approach at Ridge from other more manufactured wines.
“We have taken this step because we believe that, when working with a fine vineyard, modern additions and invasive processing are not needed to make a fine wine,” he wrote.
Continuing he noted, “We refer to winemaking at Ridge as ‘pre-industrial’ – an approach that involves the use of native yeasts, hand-harvested, sustainably grown grapes, naturally occurring malolactic bacteria, and a small number of natural ingredients used in making fine wine over the last two hundred years.”
He also admitted that the move was partly designed to prompt others to adopt ingredient labeling.
“We are hoping to encourage other fine-wine makers to provide a list of ingredients for their customers,” he added.
Draper, who was named Winemakers’ Winemaker at ProWein in March by the drinks business and the Institute of Masters of Wine, also directed his customers to an article he penned on the use of chemicals and commercial processes in winemaking.
In this he pointed out that there are currently over 50 wine additives approved worldwide, including one called Ultra Purple that concentrates red wine grapes and another called Velcorin that kills every living thing in a wine in an attempt to eliminate Brettanomyces.
Explaining the acceleration in the use of technology in winemaking he wrote, “The correction of deficiencies or excesses in wine has moved inexorably from gentle, non-invasive methods to additives and invasive mechanical processing.”
However, Draper stressed that he is not advocating compulsory ingredient labeling for wine producers.
He also highlighted that all the many additives now approved in winemaking – as well as the processes employed – offer no danger to the wine consuming public.
The move by Ridge Vineyard’s is part of a wider trend towards increasing the level of information included on wine labels, partly in response to a desire from drinkers for greater transparency.
An early advocate and adopter in the US of full ingredient labelling was Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon, who, since 2009, has placed detailed information on all winemaking inputs, as well as the quantity of total and free Sulphur Dioxide in his wines in parts per million.
Below is an example of the new Ridge Vineyards back label.
A Ridge back label identifying the information now included on the bottle