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Wine calories on the label: issue or asset?

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The European Union is raising the bar on alcohol consumption: starting 2016 the labels of all alcoholic beverages on the market, including wine, will be required to include a new series of information for the consumer.

After months of exchanges of opinion and extensive debates on the subject, the situation could come to a conclusion, resulting in a bona fide revolution for the industry.

What does this provision entail exactly?

Just like all other food products on the shelves, the containers of alcoholic beverages will also be required to report ingredients, calories and nutritional values. But that’s not all. In fact, a few weeks ago the European Health Commission also reiterated the need to report the dangers deriving from alcohol consumption, especially for pregnant women and drivers, on labels and packaging.

A battle in the name of transparency, but also public health. In fact, according to the European commissioner for food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the lobbies of the alcohol industries are “indifferent” to the numerous young deaths caused by alcohol abuse.

The words of the Beuc, the European consumer organisation, were echoed on the words of the Lithuanian politician, according to whom consumers need to be able to balance their diet to control their health, and in order to do so it is essential that they know the calorie intake of everything they consume at meals.

These proposals, it goes without saying, stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy among producers of alcoholic beverages. Many, mainly wine companies, fear that the regulation could have heavy repercussions on productions costs, in addition to growing disinformation among customers in terms of product quality.

Unlike many alcoholic drinks on the market, produced and packaged according to industrial processes, wine is produced through a meticulous artisan process. With each new harvest, the same wine can have very different technical and nutritional characteristics from previous years, therefore producers would have to prepare new labels in multiple languages each year for each of their wines.

A great expense in terms of time and money, on top of which there is a series of ambiguities connected to the information, the selection criteria and evaluation of wines, as many could assess it based exclusively on calorie content.

The tones of the debate are still heated, however, awaiting developments, a number of interesting counter-proposals have recently been taken into consideration, including the use of the internet. Avoiding the need to include unpractical charts on wine labels, the companies could enter the technical sheets of their products on their web sites, where they can be freely consulted by anyone.