Ingredient Labeling On Wine & Liquor: Do You Want To Know What's In Your Booze?

Wine labels, which, like most, have no ingredients listed
Wine labels, which, like most, have no ingredients listed
B. Rodell

Yesterday in The New York Times, Eric Asimov wrote about the revolutionary step that winery Bonny Doon took five years ago: putting an ingredients list on their label. And how, basically, no one noticed. "Instead, he felt the wind of chilly indifference," Asimov writes of Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon's proprietor. "The silence left Mr. Grahm, who revels in playing the provocateur, scratching his head."

"I imagined it would have an impact," he said by telephone. "I wasn't sure if there would be a backlash, or they would be freaked out, but most people haven't really noticed. In a perfect outcome, I would have liked to see interest, and gradually the start of a drumbeat about transparency."

It's slightly nonsensical, but unsurprising, that people don't seem to care very much about what's in their alcoholic beverages. We all know eaters who are incredibly health-conscious, or vegan, etc., but how many of those same folks will drink just about anything? I've heard health-conscious friends declare with glee, "Look, this wine is bio-dynamic!" but who also happily drink mass-produced, industrial wine, beer and liquor without a thought.

And what of Proposition 37, the upcoming California referendum that, if passed, would require genetically modified products to be labeled as such? Does that mean we'll find out if our liquors are made with genetically modified corn or grain?

Nope -- Prop 37 exempts alcohol.

So why don't we care what's in our booze? Is it because we figure it's already bad for us, so why bother to know anything beyond that? Or is there a sense that because it's fermented, nothing that bad could come through the process and into the bottle?

Like Mr. Asimov, I appreciate the jump Bonny Doon took in their quest for transparency, and I hope to see a public that pushes for more information on what goes into the bottles they buy. Not because I'm some sort of health nut, but because, like food, it's usually safe to assume that the better the ingredients that go into a product, the better it will taste.


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