Thursday, May 16, 2013
Note to wineries: Label alcohol percentage accurately
Currently wines under 14% are allowed to be mislabeled by up to 1.5%, while wines over 14% alcohol can be mislabeled by up to 1%. This means a wine labeled at 12.5% alcohol can be anywhere between 11% and 14%, while a wine labeled at 14.9% alcohol can be anywhere between 14% and 15.9%.
This is why so many wines are labeled at 12.5% and 14.9%. It's a hedge, and until recently it was a reasonable one. The federal agency responsible for approving wine labels, the TTB, previously made it difficult for wineries to make any changes to labels without going through the time-consuming, unpredictable approval process again.
But now the TTB has had three years of staff reductions and has simplified its approval process. Wineries can change a lot of things on the label without new approval being required -- including alcohol percentage. Wine label alcohol percentages can go over or under the 14% dividing line without a new approval.
There's just no excuse anymore to be so inaccurate.
Sure, some consumers don't care about alcohol percentage. But many do. That's the reason federal law requires the alcohol percentage for wines over 14% to be on the label in the first place.
Germany has a tolerance of just 0.5% on its labels. It's the 4th largest wine market in the world, so importers take the trouble to get the alcohol percentage right.
The US is the world's largest wine market. Don't our consumers deserve the same accuracy as German consumers?
Wineries: Nobody is telling you to purposely make your wines higher or lower in alcohol; both styles have fans. But there's a huge difference between a wine that's 14% alcohol and one at 15.9%, and it's not right that we don't know which is which.
Just be honest with us. That's all we ask.
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 5:56 AM