Time to Keep it Real

?+¦-+?+¡Being averse to controversy, I avoided getting fully involved in a little twitter buzz flitting around a few weeks back. Di Procter, copy-editor and food-vino blogger, alerted followers to her detecting notes of Grenache in some local Pinot Noir she had been sampling.

I gave a courteous tweetish missive stating that this might well be the case. For the wine industry is by law allowed to add up to 15% of a grape variety other than the one stated on a single varietal wine. So while that bottle of wine might sport a dashing Cabernet Sauvignon or Riesling on the label, the content could very well contain 15% of Shiraz of Chardonnay respectively.

However, Di got me thinking about this issue again. Surely this situation is counter to what the wine fraternity is attempting to communicate about our beloved elixir’s authenticity? For here we are,?+¦-+?+¡constantly?+¦-+?+¡going on about a taste of place, integrity in all aspects of production and varietal character, yet by law wines passing themselves off as being produced from one grape may have been adulterated through the adding of a good whack of essentially foreign juice. And the industry condones this.

Yes, this is permitted in other countries, as is the eating of dogs and tying kids to machines producing tennis shoes. And the current situation appears to be far better than a few decades back when a South African producer was allowed to add 50% of another grape variety without declaring it on the label.

But the bastardisation of single varietal labelled wine by 15% has no place in these current times when consumer rights are getting the recognition they deserve. What is a restaurant patron going to do when told that 15% of his or her crayfish cocktail consists of hake or yellowtail? Or you find out your tub of duck liver p?+¦-ú??t+¬ contains a whack of ostrich? An engaging hissy-fit may lead to lodging a complaint to the consumer watchdogs, whose eyes are going beadier by the day.

So why should the industry expect consumers to pay over R100 for some wine labelled Shiraz while a good whack of the wine is not Shiraz but Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet or Petit Verdot to name a few possibilities? Especially when the leniency is not printed on the label.

With a few changes to be rung in over the next few months, the Wine and Spirits Board could do worse than to look into this situation. As quite frankly, the permissiveness is nothing short of misleading to the consumer who has the right to know if the content of a bottle is not what it claims to be.


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5 thoughts on “Time to Keep it Real

  1. Agree 100%.

    As I recall the 85% leeway was an EU regulation that – via trade agreements – has become standard in exported wine though the USA retains its 75% minimum rule for its wines not exported. States can set a higher minimum but not a lower and
    Oregon state introduced a 90% minimum but then reduced it under undustry pressure and this is now primarily just for Pinot. (so what’s the other 10%?)

    South Africa could certainly enforce a 100% regulation internally, or maintain the 85% minimum for labelling as varietal but insist that if its not 100% then all other varieties and percentages be disclosed on the back label, but SAf wineries may complain of unfairness when competing with imported wines.

    I think we’ll be a long time waiting for international agreement to raise the minimum.

    Sixth most planted grape in California is Rubired and there’s no varietals of that and I’ve never seen it named on a wine label, but it goes into many reds to increase their colour. That’s a winemakers secret I doubt many would want to declare. And whats happening to the similarly red-juiced Roobernet in SAf? Don’t see it named on any wine labels but surely its being used……

    (Agree 100% – Did you get it 😉

  2. I also agree 100% (not 85% or more). Why legalize deceit? There’s no restraint on winemakers: they would still be able to make exactly the same blends, they just won’t be able to lie about it. We don’t always have to wait for other countries to do something before we follow – it’s okay to take the lead, especially if you’re doing the right thing. Unfortunately, where our Wine and Spirits Board is concerned, politics and a stubborn clinging to “how it has always been” seem to trump fairness and good sense – time and again.

  3. The 15% conundrum will be with us for some time to come. My view is that if you add a cultivar that will not be overpowering or change the profile of a wine to much, go for it! In many cases it is young wine being added to older wine to liven it up in this way presenting the wine in a better perspective to it’s rivals.
    Another concern for me is cross region intake of grapes. A cellar in Stellenbosch taking in sauvignon blanc from a region like Elim and then if that wine is more cultivar expressive passing it off as wine from Stellenbosch. It is rather very easy to “swop” the liters so to speak for SAWIS. The problem is that this wine is now being passed fraudulently as something it is not. Even if the cellar goes the honest route and calls it by the correct region name they will very seldom change the label so to distinguish the grapes from grapes grown on the estate. Thus the consumer is being mislead regarding the sense of place where a wine originates from. Given there is some that will not be mislead, but my feeling is that they are in the minority.

  4. Guys, thanks for the interesting comments. I am sure they will receive consideration. Although I hope South Africa’s new consumer legislation does not jump on the bandwagon…..it could be tricky explaining this loophole to those seeking a straight answer: is this 100% Cabernet or not….. Have a great new year.

  5. What about the amount of producers, mainly Estates, buying in wines or grapes from various other regions and bottle it under their ‘strong brand label’, but they didnt produce the wines???

    Again Wine of Origin Western Cape is the same issue!!

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