Wine, Food & Drink Q&A

Submit Your Question View More Questions

Ingredients In Wine

All foods require ingredients lists, why are wineries not mandated to list what they add when making the wines.?
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

A great question, and one which has been under debate for several years. It's completely logical: We ingest wine as we do food, so why shouldn't it meet the same standards? The explanation lies in the wine production process since many things are added to facilitate turning grapes into a wine we would enjoy drinking. They include color, tannin, or sweetness; others expedite certain steps such as clarification; and some serve to correct a technical problem which would be debilitating. The underlying question is how to define an ingredient. This is not just a petty detail. Does it refer to anything other than the fruit itself? If that very strict definition is used, a list of ingredients would have to cite everything, even processing aids, which actually do not remain in the finished wine. What about chemicals used in the vineyard? Foods do not reveal all the trace fungicides or pesticides they may contain since they aren't additives as such. As you can see, this is a very complicated subject. So far, regulations for wine have (mostly) focused on one main ingredient - sulfites - which must be declared on the label (if 10 ppm or greater) since it is used universally around the world. However, it seems likely that consumers will insist on greater transparency. Perhaps the most reasonable approach might be the one adopted by Ridge Vineyards in California which lists: "hand harvested, sustainably grown grapes; indigenous yeasts; naturally occurring malolactic bacteria; calcium carbonate; minimum effective SO2" ( If you're in favor of something like this, it may well happen in the years ahead if the government and wine industry can agree on an acceptable template of ingredients.

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

Visit Roger Bohmrich MW's web site