US Joins EU in Nutritional Labelling for Alcohol

European legislators have moved to require ingredient and nutritional information on wine labels (vis QR code), US consumer groups have also fought to achieve the same objective. After 20 years the groups have one their fight.

Starting December 8, 2023, labels of alcohol sold in the EU will have to reveal nutritional and ingredient information directly, or through a QR code. Until now, wine producers with no interest in exporting to Europe have imagined themselves to be immune from this kind of legal requirement, but a recent court ruling shows that American consumers will soon see the same information on bottles on sale in the US.

As the Center for Science in the Public Interest – CSPI – reported “the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has agreed to issue proposed rules requiring standardized alcohol content, calorie, and allergen labeling on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products [and to] begin preliminary rulemaking on mandatory ingredient labelling.”

The US move has been a very long time coming and results from a legal action by consumer groups and the CSPI against the TTB for failing to act on a 2003 petition submitted by 69 organizations and individual citizens including four deans of schools of public health, and calling for alcoholic beverages to be treated in the same way as other beverages and food products.

Opponents of the move who hope that implementation of labeling legislation may still be delayed will be dismayed to learn that the House and Senate Appropriations Committee’s 2023 budget treats the issue as ‘critical’ and calls for urgent action.

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New Sweetness Scale for Alsace wine labels

A standardized sweetness guide will be required on all Alsace wine labels starting with wines produced from the 2021 harvest.

While most French wines are labeled by origin, wines from Alsace are indicated by grape variety and location information, including if the wine is from one of the 51 grand crus. Now wine buyers and trade can also consult the bottle for a visual sweetness scale or one of the following appropriate terms.

The New Alsace Wine Sweetness Scale

The new sweetness scale is straightforward.  The scale is in both English and French. Dry (sec) sugar content of the wine does not exceed 4 g/l

  1. Medium-Dry/demi-sec: sugar content of the wine is between 4 g/l and 12 g/l
  2. Mellow/moelleux: sugar content of the wine is between 12 g/l and 45 g/l
  3. Sweet/doux: sugar content of the wine exceeds 45 g/l

This change was prompted by the Alsace wine industry and centers on sweetness guidelines already in place in the European Union.

“In Alsace, we produce many different styles of wine, from dry wines to sweet wines to sparkling wines,” says Foulques Aulagnon, export marketing manager, for CIVA (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace) which is also known as the Alsace Wine Board. “This new standardized sweetness guide doesn’t affect how we produce our wines, but gives greater clarity on the style of what’s in the bottle.” Crémant d’Alsace, traditional method sparkling wine from the appellation, already has sweetness guide regulations and isn’t impacted by this new round of rules.

In addition to labels, the new system applies to advertising, marketing materials, invoices, and other containers. This is designed to be helpful to trade partners such as educators, retailers, and sommeliers.

According to CIVA data, export sales of Alsace wines grew by 22.4% in 2021. With more buyers outside of France, this move provides further understanding to new customers that may not be as familiar with what Alsace has to offer.

* According to EU regulations, “Dry” represents sugar content does not exceed 4 g/l (or 9 g/l if the total acidity in grams of tartaric acid per liter is not more than 2 g/l lower than the residual sugar content). “Medium-Dry” represents sugar content of the wine is above 4 g/l but does not exceed 12 g/l (or 18 g/l if the total acidity in grams of tartaric acid per liter is not more than 10 g/l lower than the residual sugar content).

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