Ingredient Labeling for Wine?

How do you feel about it? It began with the “contains sulfites” warning in 1987. Now, there’s a push to expand upon ingredient labeling. In this article by Rose O’Dell King she comes out in favor of ingredient labeling with allergic reactions in mind.

This isn’t as simple as it seems, at a glance. The top things advocates of ingredient labeleing point to are usually fining agents like egg white, milk or isinglass (sturgeon bladder). The thing is, these aren’t considered ingredients by winemakers. They’re tools.

Here’s how it works: when the wine is hazy or too tannic – whatever the issue – there’s a long-standing practice of adding a fining agent. It’s often a protein. This agent combines with the substance in the wine that’s causing the problem and they settle to the bottom of the barrel or tank together. A few weeks later the winemaker siphons the wine out, leaving a little wine and the fining agent behind, in the bottom.

The amount of the fining agent that remains in the wine is microscopic at that point. However – the vast majority of wines are, later, pushed through some kind of filter – a barrier typically made of cellulose and/or clay. This makes the amount of the fining agent left in the wine truly negligable.

And, keep in mind that producers of fine wine know that least is best when it comes to processing. The winemaker will have done trials on small quantities of the wine in the lab to see which fining agent works the best and how little he can use to get the desired effect. So, we’re not talking about significant quantites. Think 3-6 egg whites per 60 gallons of wine.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked for wineries my whole career, so I tend to see things from the winemaker’s point of view. But, it just seems like there should be some kind of minimum level any of these “ingredients” have to reach before any declaration is required. And, doing all that testing sounds expensive for the winery and the government. Do we really need to go there?

Many people blame sulfites for their wine headaches which as I said yesterday isn’t, likely, valid. Or they blame histimines in red. But, why does a person react to one red and not another? We don’t know the cause of the “red-wine headache” or a lot of the other negative reactions like allergies. I always think it’s interesting that folks blame everything except the alcohol! Hello?! Now, that’s definitely measurable! It’s second, only, to water as far as what’s taking up space inside that wine bottle!

What do you think? How do you feel about it? Lemme know… Cheers!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Ingredient Labeling for Wine?

  1. Nancy, once again, you have taught me something new. I really didn’t know what these "fining agents" were all about. But it hardly seems worth all of the tests and the expense if the amount really is negligible.

  2. Nancy Hawks Miller

    Hi, Sherry! Yeah, it’s really just trace amounts. Thanks for the comment!

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