WINE REVIEW FEBRUARY 2019

WINE LABEL ABC’S

If it’s on the label it must be true! Well, more or less, at least as it concerns wine labels. Generally consumers have grown to trust information on product labels but with wine there is “wiggle room” on the accuracy of data provided not to mention the often absurd descriptions of its taste.

Alcohol content by volume is one figure that many assume is accurate but is allowed by most regulations to be printed an entire percentage point more or less than actual, i.e. 12.5% when it is actually 13.5% or conversely 11.5%. Higher alcohol content is a positive selling point in the burgeoning craft beer business whereas wine producers strive to maintain balance by keeping alcohol in the range of 13% except for dessert wines.

While a one or two percent swing in alcohol content may not sound like much but if one is watching calories, as many are after recent yearend celebrations, it can amount to a 10%+ difference in calorie intake or 160+ additional calories in a couple of glasses of white wine. Few if any wineries print caloric content on their labels. Calories in wine derive from alcohol and sugar with a standard 750ml bottle of sauvignon blanc containing about 525 cal. or 105 cal. per 150ml glass. A dry syrah has about 610 cal. a bottle or 122 cal. per glass. Sweet wines like Sauternes and Port are double the preceding figures so factor these in when establishing your diet.

More than a few wineries now print on back labels their recommendation as to how many glasses of wine they believe are contained in one 750ml bottle. Most will logically state five glasses containing 150ml each which tends to mollify customers and bar owners alike although merely a decade ago a respectable bar or restaurant poured four glasses per bottle. Still other wineries are listing a ludicrous seven plus glasses per bottle, barely enough to taste the wine and all but eliminating the credibility of the information.

Back label descriptions of the grape varieties in a wine are useful especially when they include brief comments about growing conditions for the vintage and circumstances during harvest. Succinct suggestions about compatible food complements are also useful. Less helpful are an increasing number of comparisons of wine aromas and flavors to organic and inorganic objects few have heard of or tasted. Hints of flint on steel, wisps of Loganberry, vibrant melon flavors, persistent briar undertones, etc. are but a “hint” of terms used by would be semanticists that do more to turn consumers off than assist them.

Back to alcohol content an important reminder that ‘drinking and driving puts everyone at risk’ should be on all alcoholic beverage labels. Studies show that it takes one hour for an average sized person to assimilate the alcohol in one glass of wine. More than that, especially in Bangkok where taxi fares are among the lowest on the planet, take a taxi or let a non-drinker drive you!

WRITTEN BY: R. JAMES MULLEN