The Wine Czar Has Arrived

Inspired by Paul Gregutt’s excellent story on the meaning of wine terms, I began fantasizing about being named the American Wine Czar and being given complete control over wine regulations in the United States. I’ve fantasized about this before but given the wonderful fantasy it is, the topic deserves an update.

My first set of acts as the American Wine Czar are:

Any wine produced in the United States that carries the term "Old Vine" or "Ancient Vine" or any other derivation of these terms that imply the vines are actually much older than average must have have been made with 100% grapes grown on vines that have been in the ground for 75 years or more.

Any wine sold in America that carries a varietal designation on the label must be made with 100% of the named variety.

Any company that sells wine to consumers that is not also a producer must carry at least two wines from no less than five different states.

Any consumer that takes legal possession of a wine may ship that wine to anyone anywhere in the United States unfettered by any agency or law of any state.

No wine sold in the United States may be contained in a bottle that weighs more than 25oz.

No wine sold in America may carry a back label that asserts the wine was "hand crafted" unless documentation is submitted to the Wine Czar that verifies the wine was actually produced entirely while being held in the hands of one or more employees of the producer.

The term "reserve" may be used on any wine label of American-produced wines only if on the back label the producer explains why the wine in the bottle is of higher quality than all other non-"reserve" wines made by the same producers.

A 100 Point rating scale may only be used to rate a wine or promote a wine or to advertise a wine if the person or company assigning the rating is able to explain the difference between an 88 point wine and an 89 point in purely aesthetic terms.

13 Responses

  1. Marco - December 12, 2007

    You got my vote. Oh, I forgot czars are not elected.

  2. Tom Wark - December 12, 2007

    Marco. True. However, they do need a reliable secret police force.

  3. wineguy - December 12, 2007

    Re: the varietal regulation: You mean you would not permit Syrah co-fermentated with Viognier to be labeled “Syrah”?

  4. Tom Wark - December 12, 2007

    Sure, that kind of wine making would be allowed, WineGuy. You just couldn’t label it “Syrah”.

  5. Michelle McCue - December 12, 2007

    Oh Tom, you crack me up. Re. the “handcrafted regulation” I’m picturing a game of reverse Hot Potato where the goal is to make sure someone is touching the grapes/barrel/bottle AT ALL TIMES!!! Anybody want the 2 AM shift? All you have to do is sit here with this giant barrel on your lap…

  6. el jefe - December 12, 2007

    I would think the logic behind your “Reserve Disclosure Regulation” would apply equally to the “Old Vine Regulation”, relative to the producer’s other wines made from “not-so-old vines”.

  7. fredric koeppel - December 12, 2007

    yer clairvoyant… i’m working on a post for BIGGER on a couple of these issues right now. great minds working in the same channels.

  8. Alfonso Cevola - December 12, 2007

    Absolutely brilliant, Tom.

  9. AnimaMundi - December 13, 2007

    Wine Czar

    The world of wine is filled with beauty, lusciousness, mystery, sharing, laughter, terroir, artistry and many many other wondrous things. Unfortunately, as the popularity of wine increases so does the scheming, misnaming, misinformed designations and o…

  10. Big Mike - December 13, 2007

    You got my vote!!!!!

  11. boyce - December 13, 2007

    First time poster here…
    If you want headaches from wine regulations you should live here in China.
    There’s a lot of, let us say “flexibility”, in wine labeling here. A lot of the Chinese wines that people are so apt to make fun of (leader or unleaded?) actually contain much Chilean, Spanish, other imported bulk juice.
    New regulations, starting on January 1, are aimed at cleaning up the mess though (well, if they’re enforced).
    Cheers, Boyce

  12. Thomas Pellechia - December 14, 2007

    Wish I had thought of the list, but I’m sure that can add to it. Good fun and poignant!

  13. Bennett Traub - December 18, 2007

    Great list, but here’s my No. 1: Alcohol levels on labels must be exactly accurate–no more 1% or 1.5% leeway as allowed under current regs. Must apply equally to importer’s strip labels as well.

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