Do we need more information on wine labels?
There is mounting pressure to add more nutritional information on wine labels after beer producers have started printing nutritional panels showing sugar content, preservatives, carbohydrate content and total kilojoules/calories on their labels.When exporting to other countries, labels must comply with the label laws of those countries. That doesn’t seem to be a two-way street.
Label information required on the domestic market includes:
- Country of origin (if made from grapes or concentrate from more than one country these should be listed in descending order)
- Product name (“wine”, or wine type such as “sparkling wine”, of a variety or generic name such as “port”)
- Alcohol by volume (+/- 1.5% for wine and sparkling wine)
- Content (e.g. 750ml)
- Producer (name and address of producer, importer, packer or vendor in New Zealand or Australia).
- Sulphite (if more than 10mg/kg)
- Allergen declaration (if milk, milk products, egg, egg products, fish products or other allergens are used)
- Standard drinks
- Lot identification (if more than one bottling)
- Carry health claims
- Encourage excessive consumption
- Have special appeal to minors
- Claim to be low in alcohol or non-intoxicating
- Be false or liable to mislead consumers
When exporting to other countries, labels must comply with the label laws of those countries. That doesn’t seem to be a two-way street. A bottle of 2014 Cos d’Estournel plucked from my cellar does not carry a product name, sulphite declaration, allergen declaration or show standard drinks.
The EU has given wine producers one year to come up with a self-regulatory scheme that improves the amount of nutrition and ingredients labelling information given to drinkers.
In the US, wines with less than 7% alcohol by volume are required to carry a nutritional label. The alcohol level in most wine is significantly higher than that and don’t, therefore, require a nutritional label. However growing pressure from consumer groups could change that.
NZ Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan told Stuff.co.nz that the wine industry was not looking at following the beer industry’s lead and that there was not a lot of real estate left on wine labels.
Do we need extra nutritional information?
I’d find residual sugar information quite useful, although it is a slightly simplistic measure of a wine’s apparent sweetness, which is also influenced by acidity, pH, tannins and alcohol level. Residual sugar and alcohol level would then allow keen consumers to calculate calories. It would also relieve the frustration of searching for a truly dry riesling or pinot gris when too few wines give reliable information on sweetness level.