From the desk of Editor-at-Large Roger Downey : A month ago, the Weekly reported on growing demands to make the state's liquor monopoly enforce its

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Wining

State watchdog wants Washingtonians to know what real wine is.

From the desk of Editor-at-Large Roger Downey: A month ago, the Weekly reported on growing demands to make the state's liquor monopoly enforce its own rules about wine labeling and clarify the difference between certifiable vino and imposter products containing added water, grain alcohol and flavoring. Yesterday the Campaign for Real Wine took a big step forward when the director of the industry watchdog Washington Wine Institute sent a letter (viewable in its entirety after the jump) to the State Liquor Control Board, pointing out the problem and asking for action. The issue is sure to come up in the 2007 legislative session beginning in January.

 

August 30, 2006

Rick Garza

Washington State Liquor Control Board 

3000 Pacific Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98504-3080

Dear Rick,

The Washington Wine Institute understands that there may be beverage products being sold in Washington State as wine when these products do not meet the definition of wine under WSLCB regulations.  To protect consumers and to preserve the integrity of wine produced in Washington State, we urge the Board to investigate this issue and, to the extent necessary, to enforce existing state regulations by requiring these purportedly flavored and/or watered wine products to be correctly labeled.

"Wine" is defined in WAC 314-24-003 as "the product of the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of sound, ripe grapes . . . without any other addition or abstraction whatsoever except such as may occur in normal cellar treatment."  Products that do not meet this standard may be sold only under certain conditions.  Specifically, with limited exceptions, the regulations make it clear that variations from the above formula may not be labeled as "wine" or "table wine," but must bear the label "specialty wine."  The regulations further provide that "such wines may bear a fanciful proprietary designation and shall be labeled with a truthful and adequate statement of composition or with any commonly accepted trade designation indicative of such composition."

The Institute has been informed that several beverage products available in Washington may not meet either of these criteria.  Instead, these products are labeled "wine with natural flavorings," "table wine with natural flavoring" or other similar terms.  It is alleged that these products do not meet the definition of "wine" set forth above in that such beverages are alleged to contain more water than is allowed under normal cellar treatment.  If that is the case, then their labels do not provide a "truthful and adequate statement of their composition" nor do they contain a "commonly accepted trade designation indicative of such composition."

If such beverage products are as alleged then the Institute believes that it is illegal and deceptive to allow such products to be called "wine".  We ask the Board to investigate this issue and, to the extent necessary, to enforce existing state regulations by requiring these purportedly flavored and/or watered wine products to be correctly labeled as "specialty wine," and bear "a truthful and adequate statement of composition".

Sincerely,

Robin Pollard, Executive Director

Washington Wine Institute

 
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