Listing wine ingredients would ‘raise quality’, critic argues

20th March, 2017 by Arabella Mileham

The wine industry should list all ingredients in wine in order to raise the quality on offer and boost consumer engagement, a US wine critic has claimed.

Ridge Wines launched ingredients listing on its wines in 2013 in a bid to prompt greater transparency

Writing in an article in the New York Times International Edition, the NY Times wine critic Eric Asimov said US wine drinkers should have the opportunity to know what goes into the bottle, as they do with food, which would enable them to make an informed choice.

“The wine industry has long argued that consumers would find ingredients confusing and maybe incomprehensible. That may be true, but it is irrelevant,” Asimov argued. ‘With comprehensive labelling [on food], those who want to avoid artificial or suspect ingredients have the opportunity to do so. They should have the same opportunity with wine,” he said.

Growing consumer awareness in the US of the ingredients that go into food had been key in prompting a “food revolution” in recent years, he said, which had prompted consumers to ask more questions about where their food came from, how it was grown or raised, the ethics behind agricultural production and also its environmental impact, its food miles.

This in turn had “vastly improved” both the quality of, and pleasure taken in, food, he claimed – and the same approach needs to be adopted for wine consumption.

“The blind spot has kept many consumers from asking questions about how their wine is made, even though they may be hyperconscious of the origins of the food they eat,” Asimov wrote, arguing that the “processed”, “industrially farmed” assembly-line wines that fill shelves across the US retailers were designed to fulfil “specifications derived from substantial research and the use of focus groups”.

“Thinking about wine in the same way [as food] is a significant first step towards improving the quality of the wine you drink and the pleasure you take in it,” he argued.

Currently, wine and other alcoholic drinks are governed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is part of the U.S. Treasury, rather than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In recent years there has been a growing debate around the subject, with some wine retailers and winemakers arguing that many ‘misunderstood’ ingredients that are used to make wine would end up being vilified.  However in 2013, Californian wine producer Ridge Vineyards opted to promote transparency and its non-interventionist approach to winemaking by publishing ingredients on its labels, which winemaker Paul Draper, who won the Winemakers’ Winemaker Award at ProWein in 2013 before retiring from the company last year, admitted had hoped to prompt others to adopt ingredient labelling. This included not only every addition to the wines, but also an explanation of why and when water might be used, as well as egg whites and tartaric acid.

In the UK and EU, wine is exempt from showing a list of ingredients, although voluntary ingredients list can be included, but allergens warning must be shown if an allergenic ingredient is present above certain limits. For example wines from the 2012 vintage onwards which are produced using egg or milk as fining agents must give an allergens warning on the label if residues exceed 0.25mg/l, while the total sulphur dioxide level must be included if it exceeds 10mg/litre for wines bottled after 2005.

5 Responses to “Listing wine ingredients would ‘raise quality’, critic argues”

  1. Keithp says:

    Wine is a transformational fermented product. What goes in to making it is not what is in the bottle in most cases. Ingredients is the wrong word, additives may be more correct but is still of little value in determining what is in the bottle. Also, with more and more regulation like this the smaller high quality and innovative producers will close. It leads to consolidation and less quality as found in manufactured products, not artisan ones. Also the larger more technologically proficient wineries will use high tech machinery to alter the wines by ion exchange, reverse osmosis, spinning cone. ultra and crossflow filtration, and other methods that achieve the same ends as fining agents but with destruction of colloidal structure and quality in the wines. We are becoming an idiocracy and need to rethink all this BS being thrust on us in the form of artisan and business destructive government regulation.

  2. I think that the key item here is defining what is an ingredient. Is it what is in the bottle of wine once it hits the shelves, or is it what is used in the process? Diatomaceous earth is a pretty common item for filtration. There shouldn’t be any diatomaceous earth left in the bottle when it is bottled. Is it an ingredient? I think it would sound bad on a label & it would be somewhat misleading if it were included, but leaving out fining & filtering agents might be misleading as well. An example would be isinglass. There shouldn’t be any left in the bottle, but vegan wine buyers absolutely would want to know about it. This is a more complex issue than most people are willing to admit.

  3. Thomas Kinkaid says:

    And I thought it was just fermented grape juice……

  4. Keithp says:

    Manufactured food is a commodity, comparing wine to a commodity product, even a branded one is to bring wine down to a box or bottle with writing all over it. Will put smaller winery businesses out of business. More regulation is only friendly to the larger wineries that do make what could be argued as being a commodity wine. Even things used in fining that may have allergic reactions are likely to have some residual in the ppb to ppt range and it does take a certain threshold of allergen to elicit an allergic reaction. They found DDT in over 10,000 year old arctic ice core samples. They can find anything in anything anywhere it seems.

  5. joe sheehy says:

    Ah Mr. Kinkaid fantastic….I use just grapes, cultured yeast (they seem more sophisticated than that wild yeast) and Potassium Sulfite or “Sulfites” as we are already required by law to list now. I use PVPP in helping settle the wine and remove any bitterness that I might have pickup during processing of the grapes, but then I microbiologically filter our wine to prevent any problems from occurring in the bottle later on.
    According to manufacture spec the PVPP is no longer in the wine at this level of filtration…is an ingredient or an additive would it be on a list of ingredients?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

UK Brand Ambassador - That Boutique-y Gin Company

That Boutique-y Gin Company
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Senior National Account Manager – Grocery (Craft Spirits)

Maverick Drinks
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Senior National Account Manager – Wholesale RTM (Craft Spirits)

Maverick Drinks
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Digital Marketing Manager

Master of Malt
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Experienced On Trade Sales Person

Borough Wine Imports
London, GB

3 x Business Development Executive

The Lakes Distillery Company Limited
Newcastle head office and nationwide, UK

Editor

Master of Malt Ltd
Tunbridge Wells(Kent)

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
Liverpool

Brand Manager

Hallgarten Druitt
Luton, UK

Experienced On-Trade Salespeople Required

Portal Wines and Spirits
London, UK

Purchasing and Sales (Wine Trader)

JF Tobias
London, UK

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
Cambridge / Peterborough / Bedfordshire, UK

The Global Merlot Masters 2017

Deadline : 17th April 2017

db Awards 2017

Deadline : 28th April 2017

The Global Organic Masters 2017

Deadline : 14th April 2017

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 12th May 2017

Click to view more

Global Chardonnay Masters 2016

Now in its fourth year, the competition will identify the best Chardonnay from all around the world in every price range.

Rioja Masters 2016

Now in its fifth year, the competition will recognise and reward the finest Riojas on the world stage.

Fortified Masters 2016

Now in its third year, The Fortified Masters will reward the best fortified wines on offer.

The Global Malbec Masters 2016

the drinks business is proud to announce the inaugural Global Malbec Masters 2016.

Click to view more