Salvy: How many ingredients you can find inside a bottle of wine?
Salvy's Friend: What do you mean "Wine Ingredients"? Are you silly? Wine is wine!
Salvy: Really? And why accordingly to you, this label says "Suitable for vegans", this other says "Suitable for vegetarian", this other says nothing.
Salvy's Friend: How a wine cannot be suitable for vegetarian? Are you drunk?
Salvy: Not drunk yet. For example when a producer add gelatine to his/her wine as fining agent.
Salvy's Friend: Why gelatin? Like the one I use to cover my fruit-cake?
Salvy: Exactly! It binds with tannins that have opposite electric charge and precipitates. The same happens if you use albumin (white eggs, in this case ok for vegetarians, not for vegans) etc.
Salvy's Friend: But if this stuff precipitates, it will be removed with a racking or filtering. So why should I consider it an ingredient?
Salvy: Yes good point. Maybe this is what happens in the majority of cases. But still is an external added stuff... And what about tartaric acid used to increase acidity, or calcium carbonate used to reduced it? What about arabic gum? And so on ...
There are tens of allowed (and SAFE!) ingredients that can be used in wine-making. But ONLY one ingredient has to be reported accordingly to law, and it's not grape juice, it's sulfites (Any wine containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must declare it, as it may cause bad allergic reaction in sensitive people).
Salvy's Friend: So why do not reporting ingredients in wine labels? Wine is a food like others. Every tin you buy at the supermarket MUST have each single ingredient used clearly stated. People here in UK get (rightly) mad if you declare cow's meat and you use horses meat in your burgers! But nobody bothers of what you swallow with your glass of wine. Strange, not?
Salvy: Yes, it's strange. But remember that there is so much "magic" and "charme" (and money) around wine... Would you be willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a bottle of some famous wine and discovering on the back label all these strange chemical names. Or, on the other side, when at the supermarket, would you choose a £4-bottle featuring 25 ingredients or a £4.5-bottle featuring only 5 ingredients? There are lots of interests to not changing the system.
Salvy's friend: So? Nothing will change? How do I know which bottle of wine to trust as "genuine"?
Salvy: It's not a matter of genuine or not genuine. Just as an example, adding some natural tartaric acid in some vintages helps to get better wines. This does not make your wine less genuine. It is a naturally occurring acid already in grapes. Of course, if you use chemistry to trick the consumer, to correct in the cellar the thousands of mistakes you have made in the vineyard, then it's another music. On the other hand, I'm very optimistic and I believe things are changing. Some producer is starting to report the ingredients on the back label: for example, I was visiting last month the historical Ridge Winery in California and they started to report all the ingredients used in the winemaking process on the label. The same I saw on a bottle of Dettori from Sardegna, Italy. And even Wine Spectator magazine on the Oct14 issue (pag.38) touches this problem with a very wise article by Matt Kramer: in this piece the author clearly states "With ingredient labeling we'll be able to tell more easily who's doing what". And I agree with this.
Salvy's friend: That sounds reasurring! Cheers! Sip..Sip...but this wine tastes like arabic gum!!
Salvy: Not tonight my friend, not tonight. Spit your bubble gum!
Salvy's friend: Ah ah ah! It reminds me of SIDEWAYS!
Salvy: Very nice film indeed! Tell me, Why Are You So Into Pinot? ;-)