It been five years since Randall Grahm took the some would say “suicidal” step of listing every single ingredient that goes into his wine on his back labels. The lists include ingredients such as: oak chips, bentonite clay, indigenous yeasts and sulfur dioxide, to name but a few.
The backlash from consumers and winemakers alike could have been severe for Grahm, since the mere mention of sulfites on a wine label has been known to cause hysteria amongst the uninitiated.
Interestingly enough, a strange thing happened. Nothing.
“I imagined it would have an impact,” he said in a telephone call to New York Times writer Eric Asimov. “I wasn’t sure if there would be a backlash, or they would be freaked out, but most people haven’t really noticed. In a perfect outcome, I would have liked to see interest, and gradually the start of a drumbeat about transparency.”
Sadly, barely a handful of other wine producers have followed Grahm’s example.
One of the few was David Page, owner of Shinn Estate Vineyards. “I had read about what he was doing and realized that if full disclosure, transparency and honesty were important, we should be labeling our wine,” he stated.
“I do think consumers would understand the price differences in wine if they saw the ingredients that went into an $8 bottle with a kangaroo on the label,” said Page.
Obviously I applaud the efforts of Randall Grahm, but I’m surprised that he’s surprised that few other wineries have followed suit!
The wine industry is always slow to react to change, whether it be technology or what we’re discussing here. “What’s the ROI on me labeling my wines with the ingredients I’m using!?!?” I can hear winemakers collectively yelling in unison.
On the other-hand: Why would wineries, who are adding such freaky-deaky ingredients as Mega Purple, want to tell people all about it? In the same way, what could possibly come out of a winery using isinglass (a harmless protein obtained from fish bladders which is used to clarify a wine) telling consumers on their label? There would be panic in the streets!!! MASS HYSTERIA I TELL YOU!!!
Not all of the ingredients used by wineries to achieve their desired color, clarity, tannin/acid level and sweetness level etc. are all bad. My personal stance on the listing of ingredients on the back label of a wine is that, for the most part, it’s more information than your average consumer needs. Certainly I’d like to see more transparency on wine labels, but until it’s mandated by law, I don’t see it happening anytime soon; that is, unless some of those ingredients have ties to allergic reactions etc. The wineries who have chosen to label their ingredients should be commended. The others need to give it some serious consideration…that is…unless they have something to hide…