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As Oregon Wineries Add Ingredient and Nutrition Info to Labels, Will More Follow?

Last December, the European Union announced new label regulations that marked a drastic departure from the past. All wines sold in the E.U. as of December 8, 2023 must contain ingredient and nutritional information on the label or via a QR code. Allergenic substances and calories must also be present on the physical label.

Heads across the globe turned. Two Oregon wineries sat up and acted.

On January 18, Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee released its 2023 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir with a label that lists ingredients and the nutrition facts for a five-ounce serving, including calorie, carbohydrate, fat and protein amounts. In the future, Sokol Blosser plans to offer this information for all its wines.

Two weeks later, Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass announced it was adding QR codes to the ingredient labels it launched in 2023. The codes direct consumers to the winery’s website to receive information on ingredients, nutritional information and wine packaging, including bottle weight.

Part of the wineries’ motivation to act, they say, was a belief that the United States would soon follow the E.U.’s lead, and that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) would eventually require ingredient and nutritional labeling in some form. For Sokol Blosser, it was also a matter of ensuring that the wines they exported to Europe complied with E.U. law.

Craig Camp, Troon’s general manager, thinks that while it is inevitable the TTB will follow Europe’s lead, he does expect pushback from the larger producers. He believes large industrial producers fear consumers will react negatively to the additives they use.

“Ninety percent of the wines in the marketplace are made that way,” Camp says. “I think people will be particularly surprised by how much sugar is involved.”

But Troon and Sokol Blosser are eager to keep up with consumer and trade partners’ desire for ingredient and nutritional information access. “We’re a small niche winery working with niche varietals,” Camp continues. “People who buy our wines want to know this information, and we want them to have it.”

For Sokol Blosser president Alex Sokol Blosser, it was also a matter of capturing the attention of a particular market segment. “Millennials and Gen Z-ers want this information, and they could care less about descriptions on the label like ‘this wine smells like black roses that have been kissed by butterflies,’” he says.

Troon Vermentino Wine Label
Troon Vermentino Wine Label – Image Courtesy of Troon Vineyard

Sokol Blosser and Troon are momentarily ahead of the curve. Does their positioning offer a competitive advantage? “I want to think it will be good for sales because consumers want this information, and we want to show them that we are an open book,” says Robin Howell, Sokol Blosser’s head winemaker.

Howell adds that she looks forward to consumers being able to compare her wines to brands stressing lower calories, such as Skinnygirl Wines. A Skinnygirl wine typically registers 100 calories per five-ounce serving, compared with Sokol Blosser’s rosé, which has 117 calories, or Troon’s Roussanne, which has 102 calories.

Sokol Blosser also notes one big surprise: the positive reaction from winery team members who are diabetics. “There are a lot of people in this country who have diabetes, and I never stopped to think about how important being able to track carbs in their wine would be for them,” Sokol Blosser says.

Of course, placing nutritional information on the labels isn’t new. Oregon wineries like Brick House Wines, Omero Cellars and Art + Science already blazed this trail. But action from Sokol Blosser and Troop suggest it won’t take long until other Oregon wineries follow suit—and with them, potentially, wineries nationwide. At the annual Willamette Valley Wineries Association in February, approximately half of the attendees raised their hands when asked if they were planning to add ingredient and/or nutritional information to their labels.

“I think this type of labeling will become more typical, and not just with the biodynamic and regenerative wineries,” Camp says. “I think Oregon, as always, will lead the way in this category.”

However, questions linger about any future mandatory TTB labeling regulations. “What is considered an ingredient?” Sokol Blosser wonders. “That is the biggest concern of wineries.”

Howell hopes that the TTB requires wineries to list only what makes it into the wine and not processing aids, which she says is how the E.U. handles ingredients. For example, Sokol Blosser used bentonite as a fining agent for their rosé. Since it’s racked off and a consumer doesn’t ingest it, bentonite doesn't appear on the wine's label.

Another concern? The cost of nutritional testing at a laboratory, which Sokol Blosser says costs $400 for each vintage of wine. Jay Somers of J.C. Somers Vintner believes that even one more cost to production could be challenging. “Our margins shrink every year,” Somers says. “Even with paying one employee a ridiculously low salary, as a small producer, we at best break even.”

That $400 test may not be necessary for every wine, admits Howell, who already tests for alcohol level, sugar levels and titratable acidity. Using a standardized glycerin number, Howell says she can calculate the nutritional numbers for future labels. But for his part, Sokol Blosser describes his winery’s overall labeling costs as “minimal.”

Whatever the TTB decides to do, Sokol Blosser says, “We and other wineries want the TTB and the E.U. to be on the same page.”

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