Santa Cruz, Calif.—based Bonny Doon Vineyard is making a new addition to all of its wines as of January 2008: a list of ingredients on the back labels. The lists will include the wine components, such as grapes and the preservative sulfur dioxide, as well as products used during winemaking, such as yeast. Bonny Doon is believed to be the first major U.S. brand to display such information.
Bonny Doon owner Randall Grahm is already known for his quirky, flamboyant approach to marketing, as well as his comfort with the spotlight. The new labels are likely to be controversial within the industry because marketers tend to steer clear of highlighting the brass tacks of production.
"Randall feels that it's important to openly share with consumers any additions made to the wine, and by extension to make other winemakers responsible for [acknowledging] their own additions and interventions," explained Alison Davies, marketing associate at Bonny Doon. "We hope for a number of results: by stating all the ingredients, this could lead the industry in the direction of full disclosure and encourage winemakers to be more hands-off and less interventionist."
The first two wines with the new back labels—the 2007 Ca' del Solo Vineyard Albariño and Muscat, both from the Monterey County AVA—will be released this March. The Albariño, for example, will list biodynamic grapes and sulfur dioxide as the ingredients, and will also indicate that indigenous yeasts, organic yeast hulls and bentonite were used in the winemaking process (yeast hulls, the cell walls and membranes of yeasts, facilitate problem-free fermentations, while bentonite is a fining agent often used to clarify white wines).
Bonny Doon's label changes are unrelated to two labeling proposals currently under consideration at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. One would require vintners to list potential allergens, such as egg whites and milk proteins, used during the production process, while the other would require labels to include serving fact information, such as carbohydrates and calories.
Bonny Doon currently makes about 35,000 cases a year, less than one-tenth of its production as recently as 2006, when the Big House and Cardinal Zin brands were sold to the San Francisco—based Wine Group LLC. In March 2007, Grahm further pared down Bonny Doon by moving the popular Pacific Rim Riesling brand to Washington state.
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