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Copper Cane forced to change Oregon wine labels

California-based winemaker Joe Wagner of Copper Cane has been ordered to remove references to Oregon appellations from his Elouan and Willametter Journal Pinot Noir labels.

Joe Wagner of Copper Cane has been ordered to change his Oregon wine labels

As reported by Wine Spectator, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), reversed its earlier label approval last week.

Wagner’s Elouan Pinot Noir will have its labels changed

The TTB has ordered Copper Cane to voluntarily surrender seven labels, but did not request a change for the 2017 Elouan Pinot Noir, which is already on sale.

“The TTB reviewed the labels and requested that we omit the references for the appellations, although the grapes are sourced from those appellations. We have complied with all of the requests,” Wagner told WS.

The labels for both wines, which are made with Oregon grapes at a facility in Rutherford, California, will change with the 2018 vintage and will no longer include the Willamette, Rogue and Umpqua Valley appellations on them.

Oregon labeling rules state that a wine must be produced in Oregon in order for it to display one of Oregon’s AVAs on the label. Wines produced in neighbouring states can only use the broader ‘Oregon’ designation.

In September, the Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA) alleged that Copper Cane was misusing Oregon’s AVAs on its wine labels and marketing materials.

Wagner denies these claims. “We are not misleading consumers in any shape or form. We are making a statement as to where the grapes are grown,” he told WS.

Despite being forced to change his labels, Wagner believes his critics in Oregon may not pipe down. “I don’t think they will ever stop until we bring production up to Oregon. That’s not something we are thinking of doing,” he said.

This isn’t the first problem to blight Wagner this year. Last month 15 growers in Oregon’s Rogue Valley had their contracts – with an overall value of US$4m – cancelled by Copper Cane due to claims of smoke taint, leaving almost 2,000 tons of fruit to potentially rot on the vine.

Growers in the Rogue Valley hit back, saying Wagner’s claims were “bogus” and a “smokescreen” for wiggling out of the contracts.

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