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Label Law Lacks Levity

I think some wineries pay their graphic designer more to make the label that goes on the bottle than they pay their wine maker to make the stuff that goes in the bottle. On a personal note, while I think that there's some awesome and inventive eye-catching labels out there, the best wines have simple labels because a good wine can speak for itself. So I tend to stay away from the flashy ones while trying to decide among the multitude at the grocery store. Instead I pay attention to what the label says. And that's because I know that there are very strict rules to ensure that whatever information printed on the label is true.

There are several pieces of information that must be present on every bottle of wine. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms the minimum requirements are:

  1. Some kind of brand identification (i.e. Deerfield Ranch Winery)
  2. The "class, type or designation" (i.e. Cabernet or Red Table Wine)
  3. The location of bottling (which can be EXTREMELY misleading)
  4. The alcohol content by volume
  5. The amount of liquid in the bottle

Local and state laws can vary and often do. I say that the location of bottling can be misleading because while the style of winemaking can vary from place to place, the characteristics of any wine are derived from the grapes they are made from, which in turn get their characteristics from all of the factors of location they are grown in. Those collective factors, like the soil type, climate, altitude (and a many, many more) are what we call terroir - it's everything that goes into producing a grape. And so it's easy to be mislead when a wine advertises it's made in the famous Napa Valley but really you're drinking a wine that's got a character of grapes grown in Lodi.

I'm sure that some of those rules are in place to make sure that no unscrupulous wine peddlers skew the facts about their juice, but sometimes a label can have misinformation even though the winemaker has the best intentions. A lot of times this happens because a wine changes after it's been bottled or the labels have been printed. This happened to us a few weeks ago. It's common practice to run tests on the wine after it's been bottled and before it's been released. We noticed that the alcohol content of one wine had dropped dramatically and was no longer consistent with the label. Every so often a tragedy like this is bound to happen and there was nothing left to do but uncork each bottle and dump it back in the tank. Robert, genius improviser that he is, devised a brilliant way to efficiently decant the bottles without exposing the wine to air. The only down side was that it took a long time, a lot of people and even after working all day we weren't able to sterilize all of the bottles once they were emptied. So once again we ended up with a lot of glass bottles that are only good for target practice.

While we're on the subject of labels I thought I'd mention that my favorite is the Super T Rex. It's my favorite to drink too!