Stuck on wine labels
October 26, 2007
Every wine-producing country must adhere to that countrys labeling laws as to what information is required on the label. Unfortunately, that information will not let you know how that wine will really taste: Youll have to open that bottle to really discover the flavors and aromas of the wine. Label information on American wines is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates the taxation of alcohol and tobacco. This Treasury Department division is also responsible for approving American Viticultural Areas, issuing permits for building wineries, and approving wine labels.
All American wine labels must contain an identifying brand name Robert Mondavi or Fort Ross are two examples of brand names used. The class of wine must appear on the label. The TTB has created designations of classes, the most common type of wine is Class 1 and includes table wine, or light wine, red table wine, light white wine, sweet table wine, or something similar. This classifications alcohol content is between 7 percent and 14 percent. The TTB uses these classifications to set alcohol taxes. The alcohol content must appear on the label of all wines.
The name and address of the bottler must also appear somewhere on the bottle, and usually appears on the back label. This is the spot to discover how much of the wine was actually produced by the winery (brand) on the label. If the bottler made at least 75 percent of the wine, usually from crushing on, the terms produced and bottled by may be used. The terms Cellared and bottled by or vinted mean that the named winery barrel-aged or performed clarification techniques on the wine, which was fermented elsewhere. Blended and bottled by on the label indicates that the winery mixed the wine with other wine that was produced somewhere other than the listed winery on the label. Bottled by or selected means that all wine-making procedures were completed at another site. Those back labels that read grown, produced, and bottled by indicate that the winery named on the label grew the grapes and produced and bottled that wine entirely.The back label is where the winery will try to pique your interest in their wine. This is the spot where they describe the flavors and aromas you may find in the wine. On many wines, its here that you come across the creative genius of many a marketing departments, using catchy wine terms to generically describe the wine.Since the late 1970s all American wines use metric-sized bottles, and the net contents must be listed on the label in metric terms.
The vintage date may be used on American wine labels only if 95 percent of the grapes used were harvested and fermented in that year. Most foreign produced wines, excluding some renowned regions of France which require 95 percent content, range between 75 percent and 85 percent of the wine to be harvested and vinted within that vintage date listed on the label.An additional printed statement declaring that sulfites are present in the wine must be placed on the bottle. American and imported wines must have a health warning on the label. Most imports will have a warning affixed on those bottles sold in America.
The TTB is considering adding dietary information much like that found on all packaged foods, listing serving size, calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein to wine, beer and spirits bottles. The agency has extended its deadline to enact this proposal until Jan. 27, 2008, in order to receive comment from the wine industry on this new labeling proposal. Most wine makers are not in support of the new label, which would require lab testing for each wine blend prior to bottling. This testing and delay in the bottling schedule will be costly, especially for small producers, and ultimately for us, the consumers. Nutritional facts would always be 0 for fat and protein, and the alcohol percentage is already listed on the bottle. In addition, wine makers are concerned with the look of their bottles. Much time and expense is put into the label, which is intended to express the style of the winery, adding more flavor to that which is on the outside of the bottle.Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at email@example.com.