Some 94% of American wine drinkers support laws that would protect consumers from misleading wine labels, according to results from an online poll released by the Wine Origins Alliance at Vinexpo New York on Monday.
The Alliance, formed in 2005, includes representatives from wine regions in the United States, Europe and Australia. A dozen or so of the members will head to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to lobby congressional delegations from California, New York and Oregon as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce. They want legislation or regulation that protects the name of the wine region on a bottle’s label.
It is the latest round in a dispute that began in mid-20th century when California’s iconic wineries named their products Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne, and New York vintners dubbed their fortified wines Port or Sherry even though none of the grapes came from those famed areas.
Alliance member Christian Moreau, the owner of the 1st Cru Chablis producer, Domaine Christian Moreau Père & Fils, recalled how about 25 years ago he was in San Francisco speaking at a university. “And at the end, I said ‘what would you think if in Chablis, somebody tried to label a bottle…Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola? He’d end up in jail… So please, respect the name.’”
At the cocktail reception afterward, Moreau felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to see “…Ernest Gallo and he said, ‘That was nice [talk] you did, but you can do nothing.’”
Napa Valley, Willamette, Walla Walla, Long Island, New York and Texas producers have realized that others have been mislabeling their wines.
“Texas has been making wine since the 1600s. Its distinctive climate and land has influenced the winemaking process. Thus, the Texas name should not be used on labels if the wine wasn’t produced there,” said the founding member of the Texas Wine Growers, Carl Money. “The same should be true for Long Island, Napa Valley, Champagne, Sherry, Chablis, Chianti Classico, Bordeaux and all other wine-growing regions.”
It turns out some Texas wineries buy their grapes from California, but call it Texas wine, Money said. “That’s misleading the consumer.”
The online poll of 800 consumers, who said they had each bought at least two bottles of wine a month, was conducted by GBA Strategies during the second week in February. The survey had a plus or minus 3.5% margin of error. The poll did not deal with whether the wine’s ingredients should be on the label.