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Truth in Wine Labels

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larry chandler

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Truth in Wine Labels

by larry chandler » Sat Jun 17, 2006 4:54 pm

Does a winery have to be 100% accurate about the varieties in the wine if it puts them on the label? I know about the 75% rule. But if a winery decides to say, for instance, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, do those percentages have to be strictly accurate, or is there a fudge factor like there is with alcohol percentage? Or could this mentioned wine actually be 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah despite what is on the label? Also would it matter if this is on the front or back label?
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Bob Ross » Sat Jun 17, 2006 5:23 pm

The rule is essentially plus or minus 2%, Larry. Here's the reg at the Wine Institute site:

http://www.wineinstitute.org/industry/f ... 4/4_23.htm

Regards, Bob
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by larry chandler » Sat Jun 17, 2006 6:04 pm

Thanks. Are there legal issues if the wine itself just says "red blend" but a paragraph on the back label says "this is a blend of Syrah and Grenache" but Cabernet Sauvignon is actually used in the blend?
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Bob Ross » Sat Jun 17, 2006 10:12 pm

I don't know of a specific rule covering this situation, Larry, and hope that one of the folks here who make and label wine for a living will chime in with something definitive.

As a general matter, though, I would think that the labeling you describe would run afoul of 27 CFR 4.39(a)(1) which prohibits the appearance on containers of wine, or any label on such containers, or any individual covering, carton or other wrapper of such container, or any written, printed, graphic, or other matter accompanying such container of any statement which is likely to mislead the consumer.

It also possible it was a labeling mistake; here's a from my wine diary in 1999; other winelovers found the same mistake on their bottles:

1997 Lorenza-Lake Winery Blockheadia Ringnosii Zinfandel Napa Valley California. 14.5% alcohol. $30. The wine is made at Lorenza-Lake for Michael Ouellette and Family; Ouellette runs the Mustards Grill in Yountville. 1037 cases. The bottle contains an amusing design illustrating the name of the wine – a multi-colored block of wood with various conical structures including a nose with red and white rings. My particular bottle was interesting because the back label was apparently intended for the 1997 Blockheadia Petite Sirah. But there was nothing wrong with what was inside!

By the way, welcome to WLDG.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by larry chandler » Sun Jun 18, 2006 2:21 am

I've also seen the wrong label on wines, and mistakes do happen. One winery's front label was for the Syrah, the back label was for the Cabernet Sauvignon. It's just that I've heard from several sources in several wineries that sometimes the labels are just used from previous vintages without regard to the new blend.

Thanks!
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Bob Ross » Sun Jun 18, 2006 10:18 am

I've heard that too, Larry. In fact winemakers sometimes say they plan to use up labels before switching to new ones. Don't know how common that is if there is actual mislabeling though.

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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Hoke » Sun Jun 18, 2006 12:58 pm

It happens, Bob.

The trick is to figure out when the more-or-less-annual winery inspection comes around, and to make sure all the labels/suspect bottles are gone from the winery. :)

Using up tag-ends of print runs, fudging just the tiniest bit with percentages, noodging with AVA percentages, vintage rules, varietal rules..all of that happens from time to time.

And every winery I've ever known has a red blend and white blend of some type, or some size, sometimes because they have to deal with what they had as leftovers, sometimes because it is more interesting than their varietally designated wines.
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Bob Ross » Sun Jun 18, 2006 2:01 pm

Thanks, Hoke. It must be a real temptation to use up a supply of approved labels rather than go through the approval process for a new set of labels -- postponing an expense for a year or two can make a difference in any farming endeavor.

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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Hoke » Sun Jun 18, 2006 6:01 pm

Oh, I was remiss in my previous posting in not mentioning how bottling/labeling works.

Most wineries of size have their own bottling lines. A lot of smaller wineries job their bottling/labeling out to either larger wineries or people that specialize in doing bottling only.

You usually do your bottling and labeling all in the same run (but not always!). The labeling comes in after the bottle is filled and corked, and the capsules are put on. Virtually every bottling line I know does multiple bottlings, which requires you to reset the line to handle different sizes and shapes and specifications, so the line has to be stopped (down time!!!) and 'change parts' have to be installed and calibrated.

Most labelers now use pressure senstive, which comes on a roll pre-glued with a very strong adhesive, versus the old single-label glue-on process. Sometimes, if some one is not paying close attention or hasn't had their coffee or is suffering from excess consumption from the previous night, the rolls might not be changed correctly, or the wrong roll might be inserted before someone realizes it...so mistakes happen. Anyone in retail can tell you several stories about the "Burgundy on front, Rhone on back" French labels, or the "Cabernet on front, Zinfandel on back" California label. Almost always simple operator error, despite the best QC.
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Re: Truth in Wine Labels

by Bob Ross » Sun Jun 18, 2006 6:10 pm

Very interesting, Hoke. As a stamp collector, I can empathize with your poor labelling operators. Of course, those "error bottles" can't compare with the market value of postage stamp errors.

Thanks for the info. Bob

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