Senator Thurmond Relaxes Stance Against Treasury Department in Wine Label Battle

Apr 23, 1999
Senator Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., has lifted his opposition to three key appointments to the Department of Treasury after Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin stated that the department would hold public hearings about the placement of health-related statements on wine labels.

In February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is part of the Department of Treasury, approved two labels that alluded to the potential health effects of moderate wine consumption. Soon thereafter, Thurmond, a longtime opponent of the wine industry and the author of the current health warning label on wine bottles, placed a hold on the Treasury nominations. Such a move is one of the most powerful weapons senators can use to block executive branch appointments.

Thurmond had stated his opposition to the health effects labels throughout 1998 and was taken by surprise when they were finally approved in early February. The labels do not make any outright health claims, which is prohibited under federal regulations; rather they direct consumers to consult their doctor or the federal dietary guidelines for more information about the health effects of moderate wine consumption.

In his April 21 letter to Thurmond, Rubin stated that the BATF will issue a notice of proposed rule-making -- the mechanism by which the federal bureaucracy states its intention to write new regulations -- regarding any future health-related labels on wine bottles. However, the two labels already approved will not be affected.

Rubin did leave the door open to a future ban, with an important proviso. His letter stated, The notice will ask for public comment on ATFs existing policy relating to health-related statements on alcohol beverage labels. The notice will also ask whether the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption or abuse disqualify these products entirely from entitlement to any health-related statements. Assuming the appropriate factual and constitutional predicates, ATF would then have the authority to prohibit directional health statements such as those on the recently approved labels.

Rubin noted that such a ban would have to be supported by enough documentation to withstand challenges that it violates constitutional free speech guarantees. The current directional labels were approved by the BATF because they did not continue any misleading factual statements or health claims and thus could not be denied.

Apparently, the labels that have already been approved wont be affected, said Thurmond spokesman John De Crosta. We are going to continue to be vigilant about what Treasury does and what the industry does. Nobody should take this as an indication that the senator is going to redirect his attention in this matter.

For more on the label issue:

  • March 25, 1999
    Carmenet Among First to Put Health-Effects Label on Bottles

  • March 02, 1999
    Strom Thurmond Challenges Wine's Health Claims Again

  • February 23, 1999
    Senator Pledges to Raise Taxes on Wine, Ban Health Messages

  • December 21, 1998
    Two Powerful Senators Stand in Way of New Wine Label

  • News

    You Might Also Like

    Young Owners of Le Clos du Caillou Expand in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    Young Owners of Le Clos du Caillou Expand in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    The Vacheron family has purchased Domaine de Panisse and 33 acres of prime vineyards

    Aug 10, 2020
    Leading Vintners in Châteauneuf-du-Pape Make Two Big Acquisitions

    Leading Vintners in Châteauneuf-du-Pape Make Two Big Acquisitions

    The Guigal family has purchased Domaine Les Clefs d'Or in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, while the …

    Aug 6, 2020
    Leading from the Top: A Live Chat with Carlton McCoy

    Leading from the Top: A Live Chat with Carlton McCoy

    The CEO of Napa's Heitz Cellar talks about his incredible journey from high-school dropout …

    Aug 6, 2020
    U.S. Dietary Guidelines Panel Takes Aim at Moderate Wine Drinkers

    U.S. Dietary Guidelines Panel Takes Aim at Moderate Wine Drinkers

    Proposed new guidelines would cut recommended daily limit of alcohol consumption for …

    Aug 5, 2020
    A Wine Industry on the Edge: Live Chat with Anthony Hamilton Russell

    A Wine Industry on the Edge: Live Chat with Anthony Hamilton Russell

    The South African vintner talks about taking the reins as owner of Hamilton Russell …

    Aug 4, 2020
    Anderson Valley Pioneer and Handley Cellars Founder Milla Handley Dies at 68 of COVID-19

    Anderson Valley Pioneer and Handley Cellars Founder Milla Handley Dies at 68 of COVID-19

    A leader for women in wine and a champion for her Mendocino home, Handley helped legitimize …

    Aug 3, 2020