Frustration Over Wine Mislabeling

I received a press release that caught my attention and found it worthy of sharing. On March 10, 2006, the United States and the European Union signed an agreement to end mislabeling of wines in the U.S. by prohibiting new labels with misleading names such as Champagne or Port. However, existing labels were “grandfathered in,” so today, more than five years later, more than 50 percent of the sparkling wine sold in the U.S. is still incorrectly labeled as Champagne.

Since 2006, other countries are taking steps to protect consumers. In 2010, Australia began a one-year phase-out of misleading wine labels, and it plans to eliminate all false Champagne and Port by September 2011. The European Union has led the way in defending wine region place names and granted Napa Valley protection in Europe starting in May 2007. Yet in the United States, consumers are still regularly deceived by inaccurately labeled wine.

In a call to action, a number of U.S. chefs, sommeliers and wine educators called for truth-in-labeling for wines by sending a joint letter to members of Congress. The letter calls on Congress to address misleading wine labels that do not correctly represent the wine’s place of origin. The full list of signers include:

Michel Richard, Citronelle, Central Michel Richard

José Andrés, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlantico, minibar

Steven W. Alexander, Spiaggia

Jill M. Gubesch, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo

Brian Freedman, The Wine School of Philadelphia

Michael Bryan, Atlanta Wine School

Michael Madrigale, Bar Boulud

Kristie Petrullo , Craft

Nicole Kosta, Mandarin Oriental

Andrew Stover, OYA

Leslie Sbrocco, Thirsty Girl

Sandy Block, Legal Seafoods

Patricia Savoie, Wine Media Guild of New York

Bonnie Graves, New Medici

Neyla White, nopa

Tracy Howard, Imbibe Magazine

Jade Floyd, Center for Wine Origins

Nicolas Quinones, Woodfire Grill

Kevin Bratt, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Jason Caparelli, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Tim Graham, Paris Club

Paul Botamer, Fearing’s Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton

Harley Carbery, Joël Robuchon Restaurant

Kevin M. Vogt, MS, Delmonico Steakhouse

Steve Hua, STRIPSTEAK at Mandalay Bay

Shawn Paul, Corton

Gregory D. Majors, Cru

Lisa Mendelson, Sherry Council of America

Amanda Reade Sturgeon, Dovetail

Steven Krueger, Westin La Cantera Resort

Chris Horn, Purple Café and Wine Bar

Erik Segelbaum, Daniel’s Broiler Lake Union

Brian Curry, Ten Mercer

Angela Lopez, Sazerac at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco

Sharon Hage, York Street

James Campbell Caruso, La Boca Restaurant

Talia Tinari, Toscana Brentwood

Maria E. Denton, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Tanya McDonough,  Boston Harbor Hotel

“There are many fine American sparkling wines, but they’re only Champagne if they come from Champagne, France,” said Sonia Smith, director of the Champagne Bureau. “We’re encouraged that some of the country’s most famous chefs and sommeliers understand how important label accuracy is for consumers.”

If you have interests in supporting truth in labeling, you may do so by signing a petition to protect wine place and origin. Currently, this petition not only supports Champagne, but other regions such as Chianti Classico, Jerez, Napa Valley, Oregon, Paso Robles, Porto, Sonoma County, Tokaj, Victoria, Walla Walla, Washington State and Western Australia.