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The curious case of wine labelling – more nationalistic than realistic?


Wine industry seems to be very passionate about their Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). It is a shame they are not as passionate about consumer information.

Over the last decades European wine industry secured protection for the names of their products, making their own industry heavily regulated on the subject.

It was reported in France that a massive labelling fraud has been uncovered. A two-year’s investigation found up to 4.6m bottles of incorrectly labelled wine.Hectolitres of Spanish wine were labelled as ‘Produced in France’ or ‘Bottled in France’ and creating an impression of being a French product. French authorities could penalise the perpetrators up to 2 years in jail and 300,000 EUR fines.

But when it comes to providing information on the labels regarding nutritional information and ingredients in wine, the industry is not so eager, regardless of the country of origin of the wine.

Industry seems to be assuming that consumers care more about the nationality of the ingredients then ingredients themselves.
One might assume that consumers would be even more interested in what actually is in their products then which country it comes from.

Listing the ingredients contained in a particular beverage alerts the consumer to the presence of any potentially harmful or problematic substances. Equally important, providing the nutritional information such as calorie content allows the consumer to monitor their diets better and makes it easier to keep a healthy lifestyle.

There are obvious health reasons why labels should include nutritional information. Being high in sugar, alcohol contains a considerable number of calories, with an energy content of 7.1 kilocalories per gram – only fat has a higher energy value per gram (9kcal/g). Additionally, many types of alcoholic beverages have extra added sugar which contributes to the total calorie content.
Nearly half of the EU population is overweight or obese, alcohol contributes significantly to calorie intake in Europe. In some European countries, more than 10% of daily energy intake comes from alcohol. At the same time, studies find that consumer knowledge about alcohol energy content is low, 80% of people do not know that a glass of wine contains roughly the same number of calories as a bar of chocolate.

Providing full information about the product enables consumers to make informed choices and ensures that consumers know what is in the product they are spending their money on.

The asymmetric relationship between the producers and purchasers of alcohol calls for enhanced consumer protection. Wine, as other alcoholic beverages, should be aligned with EU Reg 1169/2011 (Provision of Food Information to Consumers) as soon as possible.

It is a curious case that the wine industry is so preoccupied with correctly indicating on labels which country or region their product comes from, and not even slightly equally bothered to inform consumers on the same label, what is the nutritional composition of that product.