Winemaking has come to be romanticized as simply grapes, barrels, and time. But, not surprisingly, there’s a little-more to it than that! There’s chemistry, microbiology, additives, smoothing out the rough edges, tweaking flavors, clarifying, deepening the color, and doing everything else to meet the expectations of the wine drinking public..
This gap between public perception and reality has sparked a bit of a debate in the winemaking industry, and inspired a very few bold wineries to do the unthinkable: voluntarily the list ingredients on their wine labels, even though it’s not required by law.
Randall Grahm (of Bonny Doon fame) made the news a few years ago when he began citing the substances used to process the wine. Shinn Estate Vineyards followed with estate-bottled wines, and the Anderson Valley winery Foursight printed its first ingredient list last year.
The reaction from consumers has been understandably mixed. “Our goal is to make wines comprised of grapes and nothing else,” says Shinn Estate’s David Page.
Advocates believe full wine label disclosure will encourage “natural” winemaking. But there’s risk attached to long lists of unfamiliar terms. “To have a long list makes it look like antifreeze,” says David Lillie, co-owner of Chambers Street Wines, who likes the idea less in practice than in theory.
If I were a winemaker, I’d say “SCREW THAT!!!”
People still have a hard enough time with the lingo “Contains Sulfites” (most often attributing it to the reason for their hangover/headache), so how do you think they’ll react when they read “Clarified with Fish-Bladders”!?!?
Full-respect to Randall, he’s always been a pioneer/renegade (and so can probably get away with it more than anyone else), but until it’s required by law, I think wineries will spend more money on marketing/educating their consumers than they will taking a stance on labeling their ingredients.
On the other-hand, I can see a partial benefit to non-interventionist wineries; but in their case, I think they’d be better-off labeling with “Does not contain…” rather than “Contains…” ingredient lists, at least until the average-consumer becomes more “aware”.