Thursday, November 6, 2014

A First in Wine Labeling: Ingredients Labeling Pioneer Ridge Vineyards to Put "Organic Grapes" on Bottle Label

California's prestigious Ridge Vineyards, an industry leader with a history of advocating for honesty in wine labeling, announced yesterday that it will start to label its organically grown wines with the words "organic grapes" on the back of the bottle, effective in the spring of 2015. 

Scheduled for release in April of 2015, this is the first Ridge vintage
to display the words "organic grapes"on the bottle.

The winery began transitioning its estate vines on its Cupertino and Sonoma sites to certified organic farming (under Organic Certifiers) 7 years ago and has now certified 270+ acres of organic vines.

Announcing its organic farming direction in its Fall 2014 Trade newsletter, CEO and Head Winemaker Paul Draper said, "We decided to farm organically because we believe it leads to better grapes and higher quality wines. True organic farming focuses attention on the health of each individual vine, and on the soil's microbial life....This approach in the vineyard, plus our traditional approach to winemaking, will provide the finest possible wines for our customers."

Draper has called for wineries to state wine ingredients on the label (including additives and commercial yeasts). Bonny Doon has also advocated for ingredients labeling as well. The only other winery I have come across that does ingredient labeling is Beaucanon Estate in Napa, run by the de Coninck family of France. The Beaucanon wines all contain commercial yeast; the Ridge wines are all vinified on native yeast. With the exception of these two wineries, most wines do not say what kind of yeast is used or what additives are in their wines.

One wine writer recently spoke up at an industry gathering saying she could not wait for the day "when wineries will have to label all of the pesticides used in making this bottle of wine." While that day is still probably far off, the wine industry is an anomaly - while food shoppers have learned to read ingredients labels, the powerful political forces in the wine industry have kept ingredients labeling at bay.

Up to 25% of grapes in a bottle of wine labeled as from California may be from abroad. Typically those added grapes come from Chile. Even wine labeled Mendocino AVA, for instance, may contain up to 15% foreign grapes. (An exception is Demeter's "Biodynamic Wine" standard which ensures that 100% of the grapes come from the winery's estate).

In the U.S., many higher end wine producers certify their estates as organic and publish that information on their web sites, but do not put the words "organic grapes" or "made with organic grapes" on their labels, making it difficult for consumers seeking organically grown wines to find them.

In Napa and elsewhere, about half of the fine wines that could be labeled with the words "Ingredients: Organic Grapes" - including estate grown wines from Araujo, Chappellet, Frog's Leap, Hall, Inglenook, Spottswoode, Staglin, Tablas Creek, and Turley Wine Cellars - do not put the words "organic" on the wine label.

Is it possible that Ridge's announcement signals a change in marketplace trends on the labeling of fine wines? Let's hope so.

Other prestigious vintners who do put organic labeling (but not ingredients labeling) on their bottles include: Brick House, Ghost Block, Grgich Hills Estate, Porter Creek, Quivira, QupĂ©, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Verdad, and Volker Eisele Family Estate, among others. 

Note: Any wine certified as Biodynamic Wine would automatically designate a wine that is vinified on native yeasts and, except for the addition of up to 100 ppm of sulfites, does not contain any additives; this certification standard functions as an indirect ingredients statement.

1 comment:

  1. A delicious collection of wines, without any doubt. Congrats to the owners!