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Ridge is now listing all the ingredients going into its wines on the back label. This is a historic event and is fully explained on their website in an article entitled “Why is Ridge adding INGREDIENTS to its back labels?” (To read the article click here [3]). Adding ingredients to the back labels is something that every winery should do. Today many wines have a lot of ingredients added. In fact, there are over 60 additives that are approved by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) which is the government agency regulating wines. And, there have even been reports that at least one of these ingredients is a known cause of various ailments and diseases.

As reported in a recent post on the Ridge Blog hosted by Christopher Watkins here are just 2 of the things on the approved list that are going into wine:

I have never heard of Velcorin, but it is apparently a trade name for dimethyldicarbonate (DMDC). Dimethyldicarbonate? I have no idea as to what this is either, but it has been reported that Velcorin has toxic effects including skin irritation, eye irritation, irritation of mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract irritation, behavior and central nervous system problems including somnolence and tremor, and problems with the respiratory tract and metabolism. There is also an allegation that “The toxicological properties of this substance have not been fully investigated.” Wow! If this is true, as wine consumers, what are we getting in return? Shouldn’t we know if the toxicological properties of this substance have been investigated? And, if not, why? And, even if it has been investigated, shouldn’t we have the right to know that this additive is going into wine? If we knew, we might choose not to drink wines containing this additive.

Mega Purple
I have heard about this and have written about it, but take a look at what is said about it on the Ridge Blog:
There is also taste. Do you know what Mega Purple is? It’s concentrate, essentially. Cheap grape concentrate. Sold for about $135/gallon, and added to so many wines it’d make your head spin to see them all. Not enough color in your wine? Mega Purple can fix that. Not enough body? Mega Purple can fix that too. Don’t like the final texture? Mega Purple it. Need some sweetness? Mega Purple again. Oops, bit of Brett get in there? Mega Purple can mask that. Mega Purple: You can put that s*$t on everything.”

So should we as consumers not have the right to know if Mega Purple, Velcorin, or other additives are in the wine we are consuming? (To read the article on the Ridge blog click here [4]and to go to the TTM website and read about ingredients approved for use in wine click here).  Would you drink a wine if you knew that it was filled with additives that you knew nothing about? [5]

And the addition of other wines, flavorings, and grapes is something that also needs to be examined. One winemaker told me that a California port producer sells wine in bulk to wineries who are looking for more color, sweetness, and texture to enhance the “mouth feel” of the wine. And, what about the “natural” and “artificial” flavorings sold to food and beverage companies by companies such as Givaudan and International Flavors and Fragrances? Are any of these ingredients going into wine?  Then there is the issue of the grape varieties being used in making wines. The varietal designation requirement of 75% is a joke. What is the other 25%? Is it bulk wine like the one from the California port producer? Is it flavorings such as blueberry, raspberry, cherry, peach, apricot, vanilla, chocolate, etc. etc.? Is it other grape varieties added to increase the intensity of a wine and add color? How about Petite Sirah added to Cabernet Sauvignon? Why are Napa Valley Petite Sirah grapes being sold for such high prices? There isn’t a lot of varietal Napa Valley Petite Sirah, but there are a lot of very dark and dense Napa Valley Cabernets. Strange? And, how about all the really dark and high alcohol Pinot Noirs? Super ripe fruit and overly extractive winemaking? Maybe. But, what about Syrah or other grapes in the blend?  Is there a correlation here? I don’t know, but as a consumer, I think all consumers have the right to know. Things like additives, flavorings, and other  wines and grape varieties dramatically change a wine to the point that it no longer has varietal character despite the label. This is just plain wrong and the wine consumer has a right to know what is in each bottle of wine on the market. We have ingredient labeling in food, so why not wine?

Ridge Vineyards, with a 50 year history of making balanced, food friendly, non manipulated wines, has forged to the front in also providing information to the consumer. Wineries with nothing to hide should follow their example. Those wineries who are putting additives and flavorings in their wines and deceptively adding other grapes and wines without disclosure, should think about cleaning up their act. It’s a consumer issue and as consumers we have the right to know what is in the wine we are buying! Most consumers think that when they buy wine they are buying a “natural” product that is nothing more than fermented grapes. But, for many years I have wondered about the great change in certain wines. Now it seems that there is much going on that has been kept secret that may account for some of the changes in the wines. However, I believe that the day is approaching when this will no longer be the case. It’s up to all of us as consumers to demand full disclosure of all additives, ingredients and types of wines and grapes that are going into the wines we buy. And, we all need to be aware of what is in the wine we are drinking. The Underground has always been a voice of the consumer. We have focused on consumer issues such as wine fraud and full disclosure of what is wine from the very beginning nearly 35 years ago. (To read my recent article What is Wine? click here [6]).   The issue of what is in wine  is something that will continue to unfold over time. We are only in the first inning of this game.  There is much more to come. So stay tuned to the Underground and please pass this article along.


In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson