Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Wine Label: Going Organic

The Wine Label: Organic

In the U.S., there are strict labeling laws for wine. Wine labels—which must be pre-approved by TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau) —explains the bureau, are an important source of information for consumers.

Just as clarification, when I write 'strict labeling laws' it's not that I think the information is very important to a consumer, especially, in comparison to what the FDA requires on food. And, if you thought the FDA was narrow with their labels, wine is almost non-existent.  However, information requested by the TTB must be on the label for the wine to legally sell in the U.S.. In actuality, for a consumer, aside from which artwork you prefer, the label is pointless in terms of what ingredients made that wine.

The USDA is the certifying entity in the U.S. for food and beverages that want to use the term 'Organic' on their label. 

In order to receive approval to use the term 'Organic' on a wine label a producer must meet the following:
1. Must develop, submit and implement an organic system plan to the USDA.
2. 100% of all grapes must be certified organic (no synthetic fertilizers, etc...).
3. All methods to convert grapes to wine must be certified organic (yeasts, etc..).
4. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be allowable per the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and can not exceed 5% of the total product.  
5. No sulfites (sulfur dioxide) can be added.

*(To use 100% Organic a wine product must use 100% organic products eliminating #4's 5% buffer allowance)
Wine in the U.S. sold, labeled, or represented as “made with organic grapes” must meet these criteria: 
1. 100 percent of all grapes (of all varietals) must be certified organic. 
2. Any remaining agricultural ingredients (e.g., yeast) are not required to be organic, but must be produced without excluded methods. 
3. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be specifically allowed on the National List (link above)
4. Sulfur dioxide (sulfites) may be added to yield less than 100 parts per million in finished grape wine, but may not be added to wine “made with” other organic fruit (e.g., apples). 
Source:  USDA Organic labeling Guidelines

For more legal information: 
Lindsey Zahn is an alcohol beverage & food attorney in NY: 
On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog

Next up... To Certify or Not-to-Certify

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