my initial query to the TTB about inaccurate alcohol levels on wine labels to get a form letter response. But a followup took only five days, which might set some sort of government speed record.
I don't want to get overly excited here: it's not like the U.S government is suddenly changing its policy on wine labels to no longer be less accurate than most of the civilized world. But the response I got this morning from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) came directly to my email, and appears to have been written by a person, rather than cut and pasted from a menu.
The background: U.S. law currently allows the alcohol percentage on a wine label to be inaccurate by as much as 1.5%. The EU and Argentina require the label to be accurate within 0.5%. Obviously this is better for consumers: we want to know how much alcohol we're drinking. You can read my initial letter to the TTB here, and the initial response I received here.
Will the TTB take my request seriously? We can't rule out the possibility. It is the TTB's job to regulate alcohol for the benefit of consumers, not the industry. And its current rules on alcohol levels on wine labels were written in a different era, when wineries did not have today's technology to quickly and accurately determine how much alcohol is in a bottle of wine. Printing technology also has advanced. In Argentina, wineries stamp the alcohol level on the label late in the production process. There's no reason U.S. wineries can't do this.
Let's see what happens next!