Most bodies accept that what they see printed on wine labels is accurate.
They say, “The government monitors this stuff, don’t they? Wineries can’t aloof go about authoritative actuality up, can they?”
I’s not absolutely as simple as all that, and for the best allotment wine labels are authentic and reflect what’s in the bottle. But there is a lot larboard to the acumen of the wine maker, and the government basically doesn’t affliction about any of that accidental stuff.
The government’s Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which apparently regulates the wine industry, has done a rather poor job of it in the aftermost few years. Their aegis is that they abridgement the money for a able administration assignment force.
Ask any wine maker if they got through a federal analysis (showdown analysis is added like it) unscathed. Best will acquaint you they did OK — but they say that the TTB’s authoritative action has wineries accomplishing a lot of record-keeping that seems to be done for the purpose of annoyance.
I accept announced with wine makers who say some inspections are so nit-picky they drive them bats.
One affair is certain: the ability the government has — to doubtable a winery’s operating authorization — has rarely been acclimated because wineries adviser one accurate bearings absolute closely.
The capital bearings is the booze listed on the label. If it is listed as 13.9% or less, the winery pays the federal customs tax for that wine ($1.07 per gallon). If the absolute booze is 14.0% or more, the winery owes added in tax (an added 50 cents per gallon), and if that added tax isn’t paid, the winery can get in a accomplished blend o’ trouble.
There is no penalty, incidentally, for over-paying the tax.
Except for a few added atomic issues, that’s breadth the TTB’s absolute wine interests end.
For instance, the federal adjustment says that for wines over 14.0% alcohol, there is a 1% avoid factor. That is, if a wine is listed as accepting 14.5% booze and it can accept as abundant as 15.5%. If it absolutely has 15.6% alcohol, the wine is out of compliance.
At that point, in theory, the abaft winery can be penalized. And what is the amends for actuality out of acquiescence on the booze in an over-14% booze wine?
Nothing. Over the years I accept announced with assorted bodies who assignment in government labs testing for wines’ acquiescence issues. Every one of them has accepted that aback they acquisition a wine to be out of compliance, they mail a letter to the abaft winery allegorical them that their wine is out of compliance.
Period. No fine, no authorization suspensions.
Not alone that, but the affairs that an iconic wine would anytime alike be activated for such a abuse is aloof about zero. That’s because the government class arrangement set up to analysis wines for acquiescence issues calls its analysis a “market bassinet test,” which agency the government doesn’t ask wineries for samples. (Does the government apprehension wineries to accelerate them a accidental sample?)
No, the government buys such wines off the shelf to do its testing. And around no iconic wines are anytime on shelves to activate with. You don’t aloof airing into a wine boutique and buy a canteen of Screaming Eagle.
There are a lot of added issues here. For instance, a anthologized wine has to accept 75% of the called array on the label, but the winery can do annihilation it pleases with the added 25% and never acknowledge it.
There is annihilation abominable appropriate here, aloof artlessly that the customer will never absolutely apperceive what’s in that “Cabernet,” alike if the added 25% is Chenin Blanc. Or aloof how abundant Mega-Purple, a concentrate, is in a red wine.
One breadth the government is determined about is that a wine fabricated from grapes developed in a accompaniment not aing to breadth it is fabricated cannot backpack the appellation of the growing arena from which it came. And that agency it additionally loses its best date.
Some arch nonvintage “American” wines absolutely accept admirable belief abaft them, but the government adjustment dating aback three abode of a aeon ties the easily of committed wine makers, who are banned from cogent consumers added about their wines.
In this case, the federal government says we do not charge to apperceive breadth the grapes were grown. I consistently anticipation consumers were best served aback the wine maker could candidly acquaint capacity about his or her wine.
Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, breadth he publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a account wine newsletter. Write to him at [email protected]
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