Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Wine ingredient labelling

Currently, wine and other alcoholic beverages are exempt from the requirement to label ingredients. However, wine additives and processing aids include some for which declaration is mandatory when they are added to any food. Those relevant to wine are:

  • 'Egg and egg products'.
    Would be labelled where the processing aid egg white has been used in fining, or lysozyme (purified from egg white) has been used to control bacteria.
  • 'Fish and fish products'.
    For a period it was necessary to label these on beer and wine, when the processing aid isinglass had been used, until an exemption was granted in 2009. This decision was made because isinglass contains very small amounts of the fish allergen parvalbumin, and of this, any amount remaining in the final product is undetectable and would not be expected to cause an allergic reaction in fish-allergic consumers.
  • 'Milk and milk products'.
    Would be labelled where the processing aid milk has been used in fining.
  • 'Added Sulphites in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more'.
    See the additive sulphur dioxide.
  • 'Tree nuts and sesame seeds and their products other than coconut from the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera'.
    Would be labelled where the additive tannin has been added and includes material from nuts such as chestnut.

So, wine additives are not labelled, except for these allergens. Should all ingredients be labelled in wine, as they are for other foods? Max Allen asked this question of his readers recently, and will be writing more on the topic soon.

Brtish wine authority Jancis Robinson came out in favour of labelling in a recent article in Gourmet Traveller WINE, and a longer version may be read here. (Note that the article includes the image of a Chilean back label that includes carboxmethyl cellulose among its ingredients.) The article is out of date, incidentally, in suggesting that Australian wine regulations still require the labelling of ascorbic acid or fish products (see above).

Robinson argues for labelling "not for health reasons but because I think curious wine drinkers are justified in wanting to know how their wines were made". After discussing a number of specific ingredients, she concludes that "...as a purist, idealist wine lover, I would dearly love to know which wines had been most manipulated and reward the rest with my, perhaps naïve but extremely heartfelt, admiration. Who knows? If ingredient labelling were to become mandatory for wine as well as food, it might just encourage winemakers to use fewer shortcuts and additives."

What do you think?

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