Must We Dumb Down Wine for Greater Profit?

Tim Moran of the Modesto Bee reports that the California Wine Institute, the largest wine trade organization in American, along with the larger California wineries, are asking for a change in the vintage dating laws. They want to allow wines that carry a county appellation such as Napa County, Contra Costa County, Mendocino County or Sonoma County to be required to only have 85% of that wine coming from the same vintage. Currently, you must have have 95% of the wine from the same vintage.

Wines carrying an American Viticultural Area designation on the label, such as Napa Valley, Anderson Valley, or Green Valley, would still need to have 95% of the wine from the same vintage.

The growers are upset about this proposal for obvious reasons. It would allow big wineries to purchase less grapes from growers when a previous vintage leaves them with a surplus of wine.

Those pushing for the change in regulations suggest this will allow them to make better wine.

I don’t buy it. Sure it might allow for a better tasting wine, but isn’t this really about the bottom line. Nothing wrong with being concerned about the bottom line, but when the dubious suggestion is made that quality is the main reason for the change you start to get a bad taste in your mouth.

Tim Moran also reports in the same story that those pushing for the law see it as a way of being more competitive:

"Larger wineries argue that the stricter rules in California put them at a competitive disadvantage. Imported wines are supposed to comply with California rules if they are sold here, but that’s hard to enforce without having inspectors on the ground in wine regions around the world."

During the recent Supreme Court arguments on Direct Shipping, the States’ attorneys made the very same argument about policing wineries that want to ship direct to consumers. Yet the wineries’ own lawyers poo poo-ed this saying voluntary compliance and use of the internet would make oversight a simple task.

Finally, it’s important to point out here that back in the early 1990’s a lot of wineries resigned from the Wine Institute and created Family Winemakers of California because they saw the Wine Institute always siding with the big wineries that contributed the greatest amount of dues. This smells like the same thing.

You can read more about this issue over at another fine blog: Turn the Screw

Posted In: Wine Business


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