Some of you may wonder what is so exciting about a label being approved or even why a label would have to be approved at all? It’s just a wine bottle label right?
Well, think again. Our good old uncle Sam, or The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, aka TTB, wants to make sure we say the ‘right’ things on our wine label: for example, that we state the correct appellation, or where most of the grapes in the bottle came from; that if we say the bottle contains Pinot Noir, then most of the wine in the bottle is Pinot Noir; that if we say it is a 2008 vintage, it is mostly 2008. And that is just the beginning.
We have to state the correct alcohol level. Now, as far as I can tell, this is very important to the ‘Man’ from a taxation perspective. Wines above 14% alcohol are taxed at a much higher rate than ones below. A lot of the rules have their roots in Prohibition.
We need to have the usual disclaimer on the back about birth defects and your ability to drive a car or operate machinery.
Then there are layout rules for some labels. Here is a doozy straight from the TTB web site:
“When using a varietal/two or more grape varietals as the type designation, the varietals [and their percentages] must be in at least 2 mm print and appear separate and apart or more conspicuous than surrounding text. If the mandatory information appears surrounded by other text, it must be in bold print or at least twice the size of the surrounding text.” All good stuff in the name of consumer protection.
And then there are things we can’t say. You can’t make mention of any kind of the potential health benefits of drinking a glass or two of red wine. Nope! Not allowed. Never mind that for millenniums civilized people around the world have been raising a glass and toasting Salut! or Sante! or Le-Chaim! to your health.
We may have to wait another hundred years to be able to make those claims. In the mean time, we are just glad we got our labels approved.