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Have Some Fish Wine with your Fish

by David on January 15, 2007

Why don’t we just put a warning label on everything that says “Life is dangerous.” Already our wine labels warn us about sulfites, birth defects and unspecified “health problems” and now we have to list fining agents?  Which aren’t really ingredients at all?

There’s actually a draft for a new federal regulation that will require that if we fine with egg whites, isinglass or casein we state that the wine contains eggs, fish or milk respectively. I hope we still have room on the label for the name of the producer, region and variety.

We all know that the most dangerous thing about wine, by far, is the alcohol, but by all means, let’s talk about milk protein! This stuff drives me crazy for a number of reasons.

One is the government as nursemaid thing. It’s so embarrassing…

Another is that the burden of proof that these fining agents aren’t actually ingredients is on the producers, yet according to the Wine Institute “there are no methods available for testing the presence of eggs, milk, wheat or fish in wine…” But, we all know that the fining agents are added to remove something else. If there’s any trace left, it’s minute. If they insist on a regulation like this they should establish the level at which the substance must be listed as an ingredient, like the 10 parts per million for sulfites, and devise a way to measure it.

And that leads to the confusion issue. Many winemakers feel this requirement is misleading, since the fining agents aren’t actually ingredients. I hope no one expects to benefit from the calcium in casein!  But, following the history of sulfites and labeling, folks will think we’re the only ones who make wine with fish (or clay or milk protein) if we’re the only ones with the labeling requirement. Yuck! Talk about a marketing issue.

And that leads to competing in the global market. This can’t be good for sales, plus it raises labeling costs. I can almost hear our competitors snickering in disbelief. Of course ultimately, regulations like this hurt all of us.

This, from a country that permits blending wine from Australia into “American Wine.”

But, it’s still only a draft. If I understand it correctly, the comment period is over and some kind of decision will be made by the end of the year.  Perhaps reason will prevail…

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