Neither label contains outright health claims. One written by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute instead alludes to statements contained in federal dietary guidelines indicating that moderate alcohol consumption could lower the risk of coronary heart disease in some individuals. Wineries are still prohibited from making any direct health claims about the benefits of wine drinking.
Vintners are not required to use the statement, which reads, "To learn the health effects of wine consumption, send for the Federal Government's 'Dietary Guidelines for Americans,' Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, USDA, 1120 20th Street NW, Washington D.C. 20036 or visit its Web site: www.usda.gov/fcs/cnpp.htm."
"The label approval represents a defining new chapter in the evolution of federal policy towards wine in America," said Wine Institute president John De Luca.
A second voluntary label, designed by the Coalition for Truth and Balance, an ad hoc group of 12 American wineries, reads, "The proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult your family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption."
Patrick Campbell, owner of Laurel Glen Vineyard in Sonoma County, first penned the wording used in CTB's label six years ago. He already has the newly approved labels printed up and was planning to begin placing them on his 1993 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon today. He said he was pleased by the BATF's decision, which was a long time coming.
"I don't think the new label is going to sell any more wine. Our objective was simply to give the consumer more information about the health aspects of wine drinking," Campbell said.
The BATF decision has no effect on the warning labels, first put on wine bottles 10 years ago, advising pregnant women not to drink and that alcohol can impair the ability to operate cars or machinery.